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December 22, 2014

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Politics:

Poll shows support for appeals court, but work remains to get Nevadans to vote for it

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Yasmina Chavez

An attendant at the Boulevard mall voting booths waves down the next voter on the first day of early voting, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012.

Nevadans could soon have a new level of government: an appeals court.

A recent poll shows that Nevada voters appear generally supportive of establishing an appellate court, and the sponsors of the poll say the results show that voters will likely approve an appeals court ballot measure this November.

About 55 percent of voters in Nevada would vote to create an appeals court, and 36 percent would vote against it, according to the poll conducted in December by Glen Bolger at Public Opinion Strategies. About 9 percent of the 500 voters surveyed were undecided.

All of that is heartening news for the campaign’s supporters and financiers.

“This is a campaign that does better with more information out from us, and with no organized opposition at least at this point, that’s even better news,” Bolger said. “This isn’t a contentious issue where you can’t change anybody, particularly the ‘no’ side’s point of view. This isn’t something somebody thinks about every day, but the polling suggests they’re open to it when they hear about it.”

With Bolger’s favorable poll as a starting point, the campaign will be won or lost based on how successful supporters of an appeals court are in convincing voters that it’s a worthy branch of government to establish, said Greg Ferraro, president and founder of the Ferraro Group.

Ferraro said that the more people understand the extent of the Nevada Supreme Court’s case backlog, the more likely they are to vote to create a three-judge appellate court to give the state’s highest court the time to deliberate on truly significant cases.

“The only real enemy we might have is (voter) apathy, and it’s our job to get this in front of as many people as we can,” Ferraro said.

Although ballot measures to establish an appeals court in Nevada have failed three times, Ferraro said the circumstances this year are more favorable.

In 2010, voters weighing the appeals court question also had to consider a ballot measure that would have made judges appointed rather than elected. Both failed.

“A lot of times voters do the safe thing and vote ‘no’ when they’re uncertain of something,” Bolger said.

This time, there’s just the appeals court question, and there’s a true political campaign advocating for the creation of the appeals court. A dozen state legislators support the ballot measure, including Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson; Republican lieutenant governor candidate Mark Hutchison; and Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, who is widely seen as the Democrats’ lieutenant governor candidate.

A committee established to advocate for the appeals court raised about $70,000 last year. This story you’re reading is the result of a $25,000 expense paid to Bolger to conduct the poll.

That level of organization hasn’t been present before, Ferraro said.

Ferraro also brings clout to the organization; he’s one of the state’s top lobbyists.

Bolger’s poll found 68 percent of Democrats, 46 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of independent voters favored the creation of an appeals court.

Younger voters tended to like an appeals court more than older voters, but about 55 percent of both men and women favored the idea.

By geography, 56 percent of voters in Las Vegas media market liked the idea, and 50 percent of voters in the Reno media market approved of it.

The takeaway?

“If we can get 45 to 50 percent of Republicans voting for it, it’s going to pass because Democrats will put it over the top,” Bolger said.

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