We are still waiting for the voice of Nevada voters to be heard — 22 years and counting

Facebook has this algorithm that pops up something you’ve shared online in the past and asks if you’d like to repost it. It might a cute pix of your dog or a vacation remembrance.

This time it turned out to be a reminder that the will of the voters of Nevada had been ignored for 16 years. It was a link to a blog based on a column that appeared in the Battle Born Media newspapers. Oh yes, it was first posted in February 2012, six years ago, so now the will of the Nevada voters has been ignored for 22 years.

Here is the column appeared in the newspapers but has long since disappeared into the ether:

By Thomas Mitchell

This is not federalism. It is feudalism.

As most Nevadans know, the federal government holds sway over somewhere between 83 and 92 percent of the land in this state, depending on which official government source you cite. That is the highest percentage of any state in the union, including Alaska.

This is the result of something known as a Disclaimer Clause included in the statehood act admitting Nevada as a state. As a condition of entry into the union, the state was required to “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States.”

The federal government, not the state, controls the land known as Mount Wilson. (Pix by Jo Mitchell)

Putting aside the extortionate nature of the demand and that it was agreed to under duress and that it encumbered generations not yet born, nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government granted an enumerated power to deny any state sovereignty over its own lands. Even sharecroppers have more rights than that.

Over the years it has been unsuccessfully argued that the Disclaimer Clause violates the spirit and letter of the Equal Footing Doctrine under which every new state admitted to the union does so under the same conditions as the 13 original states.

On Oct. 31, 1864, the president proclaimed:

“Now, therefore, be it known, that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in accordance with the duty imposed upon me by the act of congress aforesaid, do hereby declare and proclaim that the said State of Nevada is admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original states.”

In fact, in 1911 the U.S. Supreme Court in Coyle v. Smith opined, “No prior decision of this court sanctions the claim that Congress, in admitting a new State, can impose conditions in the enabling act, the acceptance whereof will deprive the State when admitted of any attribute of power essential to its equality with the other States.”

That seems clear enough, but it has been roundly ignored.

Grazing rights are routinely canceled for arbitrary reasons. Roads are closed in order to protect some minnow or bug no matter how much it inconveniences the residents. Permission to obtain rights of way and mining permits languish for decades in the federal bureaucracy. All should be responsibilities of the state of Nevada.

It is estimated that 13 Western states forgo $4.2 billion a year in property taxes due to the vast holdings of untaxed land by the federal government.

In 1993 Nye County Commissioner Dick Carver wrote a lengthy letter to the governor and the various heads of the federal agencies controlling public land in the state. He convincingly argued:

“The people of the Nevada Territory had no authority to pass this act. Research has shown that first, the people of the Territory of Nevada had to give up all their ‘interest’ in the unappropriated lands of the Nevada territory to the Congress of the United States so Congress could pass said lands to the State of Nevada upon acceptance of Nevada into the Union. Then Nevada would become a free sovereign state as the original thirteen states relating to land.”

What many have forgotten is that in 1996 the citizens of Nevada voted to change the Nevada Constitution and strike the Disclaimer Clause. It passed with more than 56 percent of the votes.

Ballot Question 4 read simply: “Shall the Territorial Ordinance of the Nevada Constitution be amended to remove the disclaimer of the state’s interest in the unappropriated public land?” Yes or no.

Nearly 16 long years later, the state Constitution still contains a footnote explaining that the amendment was “proposed and passed by the 1993 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1995 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1996 general election, effective on the date Congress consents to amendment or a legal determination is made that such consent is not necessary.”

Congress has not consented. There has been no legal determination.

Speaking of feudalism, the right to petition for redress of grievances was first embodied in the Magna Carta in 1215.

The Founders thought this so fundamental they included it in the First Amendment as one of five key rights delineated there.

For the voters of Nevada, this right has not been denied, just simply ignored.

In the subsequent blog I noted that I had emailed the office of Gov. Brian Sandoval and asked what he would do, if anything, to address the vote of the citizens of Nevada taken nearly 16 years earlier, but roundly ignored ever since.

I wrote, “I’ve had no reply yet. Just like the voters. I wonder if I will still be waiting 16 years hence.”

Well, it has been six years, only 10 more to go.

YouTube video posted with the blog six years ago:



13 comments on “We are still waiting for the voice of Nevada voters to be heard — 22 years and counting

  1. deleted says:

    The land never belonged to the State of Nevada.

  2. Because the feds stole it and kept it, instead of what happened in those ‘Western’ states.

  3. deleted says:

    Stole from whom? Obviously couldn’t have been from Nevada, since Nevada never owned it.

    So it seems that even if you’re right, and the Feds stole it, it goes back to whoever they stole it from right?

  4. The resolution read:
    “It is of pressing moment that the public lands should become the property of their citizens, with the least delay compatible with the national interest. …

    “If these lands are to be withheld from sale, which is the effect of the present system, in vain may the People of these States expect the advantages of well settled neighborhoods, so essential to the education of youth, and to the pleasures of social intercourse, and the advantages of religious instruction. Those States will, for many generations, without some change, be retarded in endeavors to increase their comfort and wealth …

    “When these States stipulated not to tax the lands of the United States until they were sold, they rested upon the implied engagement of Congress to cause them to be sold, within a reasonable time. No just equivalent has been given those States for a surrender of an attribute of sovereignty so important to their welfare, and to an equal standing with the original States.”

    Those “Western” states, as they were called at the time, were Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. The year was 1828. The argument became known as the Equal Footing Doctrine.

    The petition apparently was successful. Today various federal agencies control the use of roughly half the 11 westernmost states in the lower 48 and Alaska, while only 4 percent of the rest of the states is under federal dominion.

  5. deleted says:

    That’s some right pretty language there Thomas but it doesn’t address the central issue you brought up originally which was that the Feds stole the land.

    If you’re right, and I won’t quibble here, and the Feds did steal the land, you’ll have to agree I think that whomever they stole it from should get the land back right?

    And going back to my original point,since Nevada, as a state, never owned it, the state surely has no right to get back what they never owned.

    Now if you were arguing that the land ought to be restored to them who owned it, before it was stolen, at least I could agree that you’re being consistent, but otherwise your argument is that the Feds stole the land and it ought to be returned to people that would just be receiving stolen property and claiming it as their own.

    That don’t seem right.

  6. Vernon Clayson says:

    To sadden the story we could list the “great and important” men and women of Nevada that have served in the Congress and in the Governor’s office that failed to make this an issue. Where deleted says Nevada never owned the land we could say the same for every state, Massachusetts, a sorry example, took the land, it’s not like there was a real ownership transaction as they are conducted today.

  7. Hmmm, Massachusetts. Didn’t they steal the land from Britain for force?

  8. deleted says:

    Now we’re getting somewhere dagnabit!

    Yes, this country did in fact claim possession and ownership of land it never got through anything other than theft. Same way England “got it originally”. Some guy in big cloths planted some silly flag on it (ironically maybe even taking a knee when he did it) and said “it’s ours” or rather “it’s his”.

    Dumb way for anything to become anyone’s if you ask me. But obviously I’m not making the rules around here but one thing is for positive; ain’t a one of those people that wrote that proclamation or “voted” for any..revision, that own that land either so whatever they say about it…who cares?

  9. Steve says:

    Nope, by the time it mattered, we took what was rightfully and surely ours.

  10. Rincon says:

    As an aside, NBC News reports, “Trump and Congress just enacted a spending law that paves the way for an increase of hundreds of billions of dollars in defense and domestic spending on the heels of a $1.5 trillion tax cut. The result, according to Trump’s budget office: the return of annual deficits nearing the trillion-dollar range for several years and a total debt increase of about $7.1 trillion over the next decade. And that’s using assumptions rosy enough to make most budget-writers blush.”

    My, how things have changed. Back in 2009-16, hundreds of statements were made here criticizing the Obama Administration for its deficit spending, often during hard economic times. When his successor does essentially the same thing, continuing to goose the economy during the best of times, I hear silence. Partisanship again rears its ugly head.

  11. Steve says:

    “My, how things have changed. Back in 2009-16, hundreds of statements”……yada, yada, yada blame, blame, blame.

    And you have the nerve to say my statement on the other thread was “interesting”

    You really haven’t read a bit of what Thomas Mitchell writes on the topic of deficit spending. He doesn’t like any of it, no matter the party in power.

  12. JustMeAgain says:

    You mean, we should give back Nevada to dem injuns? You mean, we took over their lands without their permission? You mean, we should have respected their property rights? You mean, the State of Nevada shouldn’t even exist? You mean, Europeans stole other people’s lands on this continent and were mighty callous towards them? You mean, people have been going around stealing other people’s lands all over the globe for centuries? You mean, throughout recorded history, and probably before, evil people have decided to take other people’s lands, because they could, and killed whomever got in their way, and raped the hottest women, and just acted like they owned the place, until the next group of assholes did the same things to them?


  13. deleted says:

    But somehow, after all that stealing (along with the multitude of killing piled on top of it) we’ve discovered the “true” owners all along (well, maybe not all along because “we” didn’t even exist all along, but as of today at least) the owner of that land is….the people represented by the Great State of Nevada!


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