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Difference between revisions of "Redistricting in Nevada"

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==Special panel maps==
 
==Special panel maps==
On October 14, 2011, the three-member panel of special masters tasked with redrawing the districts in Nevada released draft maps. A hearing was scheduled for October 27 for [[judgepedia:James Todd Russell|Judge James Todd Russell]] to review the maps.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/10/14/special-masters-file-report-maps-with-carson-judge-%E2%80%93-propose-urban-las-vegas-congressional-district/ ''Nevada News Bureau'' "Special Masters File Report, Maps, With Carson Judge – Propose Urban Las Vegas Congressional District," October 14, 2011]</ref>
+
On October 14, 2011, the three-member panel of special masters tasked with redrawing the districts in Nevada released draft maps. A hearing was scheduled for October 27 for [[judgepedia:James Todd Russell|Judge James Todd Russell]] to review the maps.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/10/14/special-masters-file-report-maps-with-carson-judge-%E2%80%93-propose-urban-las-vegas-congressional-district/ ''Nevada News Bureau'', "Special Masters File Report, Maps, With Carson Judge – Propose Urban Las Vegas Congressional District," October 14, 2011]</ref>
  
 
Most notably, the Congressional proposal drew the new 4th District in urban Las Vegas. That district would be 42.7 percent Hispanic.<ref>[http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/3524f403a1b24b76b8648421bb76a6ac/NV--Nevada-Redistricting/ ''The Republic'', "Court masters propose splitting Nevada's northern congressional district; still need approval," October 14, 2011]</ref> An analysis by ''Roll Call'' said the new map would likely result in either a 2-2 split or 3-1 Democratic favor in the Congressional races.<ref>[http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_45/Democrats-Look-to-Pick-Up-Two-Seats-in-Nevada-209633-1.html?pos=htmbtxt ''Roll Call'', "Democrats Look to Pick Up Two Seats in Nevada," October 20, 2011]</ref>
 
Most notably, the Congressional proposal drew the new 4th District in urban Las Vegas. That district would be 42.7 percent Hispanic.<ref>[http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/3524f403a1b24b76b8648421bb76a6ac/NV--Nevada-Redistricting/ ''The Republic'', "Court masters propose splitting Nevada's northern congressional district; still need approval," October 14, 2011]</ref> An analysis by ''Roll Call'' said the new map would likely result in either a 2-2 split or 3-1 Democratic favor in the Congressional races.<ref>[http://www.rollcall.com/issues/57_45/Democrats-Look-to-Pick-Up-Two-Seats-in-Nevada-209633-1.html?pos=htmbtxt ''Roll Call'', "Democrats Look to Pick Up Two Seats in Nevada," October 20, 2011]</ref>
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No sooner was SB 497 dead than [[Democrats]] revived and slightly altered AB 566, before easily passing it out of committee.<ref>[http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/798d44c4cadb4273a896ab64634155f1/NV--Nevada-Redistricting/ ''Daily Journal'', "Nevada Assembly panel passes new Democratic redistricting bill after gov veto," May 17, 2011]</ref>  Following the party line vote in committee, the majority party unanimously backed AB 566 on the Assembly floor, passing it 26-16, only two votes shy of overriding a second gubernatorial veto.<ref>[http://www.lvrj.com/news/democrats-ok-new-redistricting-bill-122218629.html?ref=629 ''Las Vegas Review-Journal'', "Democrats OK new redistricting bill," May 19, 2011]</ref><ref>[http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/NV-Assembly-passes-Dems-2nd-try-at-redistricting-1385488.php ''Times Union'', "NV Assembly passes Dems' 2nd try at redistricting," May 18, 2011]</ref>
 
No sooner was SB 497 dead than [[Democrats]] revived and slightly altered AB 566, before easily passing it out of committee.<ref>[http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/798d44c4cadb4273a896ab64634155f1/NV--Nevada-Redistricting/ ''Daily Journal'', "Nevada Assembly panel passes new Democratic redistricting bill after gov veto," May 17, 2011]</ref>  Following the party line vote in committee, the majority party unanimously backed AB 566 on the Assembly floor, passing it 26-16, only two votes shy of overriding a second gubernatorial veto.<ref>[http://www.lvrj.com/news/democrats-ok-new-redistricting-bill-122218629.html?ref=629 ''Las Vegas Review-Journal'', "Democrats OK new redistricting bill," May 19, 2011]</ref><ref>[http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/NV-Assembly-passes-Dems-2nd-try-at-redistricting-1385488.php ''Times Union'', "NV Assembly passes Dems' 2nd try at redistricting," May 18, 2011]</ref>
  
While they had no guarantee Governor Sandoval would not veto their map a second time, the session timing meant it was not at all inconceivable that a third set of maps could be passed, if needed.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/05/17/democrats-introduce-revised-congressional-maps/ ''Nevada News Bureau'' "Democrats introduce revised Congressional maps," May 17, 2011]</ref>
+
While they had no guarantee Governor Sandoval would not veto their map a second time, the session timing meant it was not at all inconceivable that a third set of maps could be passed, if needed.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/05/17/democrats-introduce-revised-congressional-maps/ ''Nevada News Bureau'', "Democrats introduce revised Congressional maps," May 17, 2011]</ref>
  
 
[[Republicans]] sought a hearing on their maps but, after they refused to reveal the data behind their proposal to the satisfaction requested by [[Democrats]], the majority party refused to allow any hearing to go forward.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/05/19/democrats-refuse-to-hear-republican-redistricting-proposal-after-tiff/ ''Nevada News Bureau'', "Democrats Refuse To Hear Republican Redistricting Proposal After Tiff," May 19, 2011]</ref><ref>[http://www.rgj.com/article/20110520/NEWS11/105200421/Nevada-Dems-redistricting-plan-advances-amid-GOP-nays ''Reno Gazette-Journal'', "Nevada Dems' redistricting plan advances amid GOP nays," May 19, 2011]</ref>  Later that day, Republicans changed course and released the data in the format Democrats desired, receiving, in return, a pledge from the majority party to hold a hearing.<ref>[http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/ap/politics/2011/May/20/impasse_on_nevada_redistricting_fight_eases.html ''Real Clear Politics'' "Impasse on Nevada redistricting fight eases," May 20, 2011]</ref>
 
[[Republicans]] sought a hearing on their maps but, after they refused to reveal the data behind their proposal to the satisfaction requested by [[Democrats]], the majority party refused to allow any hearing to go forward.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/05/19/democrats-refuse-to-hear-republican-redistricting-proposal-after-tiff/ ''Nevada News Bureau'', "Democrats Refuse To Hear Republican Redistricting Proposal After Tiff," May 19, 2011]</ref><ref>[http://www.rgj.com/article/20110520/NEWS11/105200421/Nevada-Dems-redistricting-plan-advances-amid-GOP-nays ''Reno Gazette-Journal'', "Nevada Dems' redistricting plan advances amid GOP nays," May 19, 2011]</ref>  Later that day, Republicans changed course and released the data in the format Democrats desired, receiving, in return, a pledge from the majority party to hold a hearing.<ref>[http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/ap/politics/2011/May/20/impasse_on_nevada_redistricting_fight_eases.html ''Real Clear Politics'' "Impasse on Nevada redistricting fight eases," May 20, 2011]</ref>
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At the last minute before publishing maps, staff attorneys for the House advised Republicans that their maps did not meet Voting Rights Act requirements and went so far as to recommend against releasing them at all.  Instead, House Republicans had to rely only on the maps made by their Senate colleagues to make their case.<ref>[http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/apr/28/assembly-republicans-split-senate-republicans-over/ ''Las Vegas Sun'', "Assembly Republicans split with Senate Republicans over redistricting plans," April 28, 2011]</ref>  Disappointed Representatives admitted they should have taken more of a role in the Senate's process so as not to be wholly unable to speak on those maps.
 
At the last minute before publishing maps, staff attorneys for the House advised Republicans that their maps did not meet Voting Rights Act requirements and went so far as to recommend against releasing them at all.  Instead, House Republicans had to rely only on the maps made by their Senate colleagues to make their case.<ref>[http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/apr/28/assembly-republicans-split-senate-republicans-over/ ''Las Vegas Sun'', "Assembly Republicans split with Senate Republicans over redistricting plans," April 28, 2011]</ref>  Disappointed Representatives admitted they should have taken more of a role in the Senate's process so as not to be wholly unable to speak on those maps.
  
Over the next week, the GOP tweaked their map, altering rural district lines to lie more neatly along county boundaries, cutting down the numbers of separate counties lawmakers would need to attend to.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/05/03/after-tiff-republicans-offer-minor-tweaks-to-redistricting-proposal/ ''Nevada News Bureau'' "After Tiff, Republicans Offer "Minor Tweaks" to Redistricting Proposal," May 3, 2011]</ref>
+
Over the next week, the GOP tweaked their map, altering rural district lines to lie more neatly along county boundaries, cutting down the numbers of separate counties lawmakers would need to attend to.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/05/03/after-tiff-republicans-offer-minor-tweaks-to-redistricting-proposal/ ''Nevada News Bureau'', "After Tiff, Republicans Offer "Minor Tweaks" to Redistricting Proposal," May 3, 2011]</ref>
  
 
====Committee action====
 
====Committee action====
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A three-hour court hearing was held on September 21, 2011 to provide more guidance to the court-appointed panel that took on the roll of drawing congressional and state legislative districts. [[judgepedia:James Russell|Judge James Russell]] said he wanted to approve a new redistricting plan by November 16, 2011. In the court hearing, Democratic lawyers argued against the need for majority-minority Hispanic districts.<ref>[http://www.chron.com/news/article/Nevada-judge-orders-public-redistricting-hearings-2182431.php ''Houston Chronicle'' "Nevada judge orders public redistricting hearings," September 21, 2011]</ref>  
 
A three-hour court hearing was held on September 21, 2011 to provide more guidance to the court-appointed panel that took on the roll of drawing congressional and state legislative districts. [[judgepedia:James Russell|Judge James Russell]] said he wanted to approve a new redistricting plan by November 16, 2011. In the court hearing, Democratic lawyers argued against the need for majority-minority Hispanic districts.<ref>[http://www.chron.com/news/article/Nevada-judge-orders-public-redistricting-hearings-2182431.php ''Houston Chronicle'' "Nevada judge orders public redistricting hearings," September 21, 2011]</ref>  
  
It was also announced that there would be two public hearings held on October 10 and October 11, at which time citizens could weigh in on possible maps.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/09/21/carson-judge-russell-expected-to-rule-quickly-on-redistricting-guidelines-sets-public-hearings-for-oct-10-11/ ''Nevada News Bureau'' "Carson Judge Russell Expected To Rule Quickly On Redistricting Guidelines, Sets Public Hearings For Oct. 10-11," September 21, 2011]</ref>
+
It was also announced that there would be two public hearings held on October 10 and October 11, at which time citizens could weigh in on possible maps.<ref>[http://www.nevadanewsbureau.com/2011/09/21/carson-judge-russell-expected-to-rule-quickly-on-redistricting-guidelines-sets-public-hearings-for-oct-10-11/ ''Nevada News Bureau'', "Carson Judge Russell Expected To Rule Quickly On Redistricting Guidelines, Sets Public Hearings For Oct. 10-11," September 21, 2011]</ref>
  
 
The next court hearing was on November 15 or 16, when Judge Russell would either adopt new maps or send them back to the panel for changes.<ref>[http://www.lvrj.com/news/judge-wants-redistricting-plan-in-place-by-nov-16-130308928.html ''Las Vegas Review Journal'', "Judge wants redistricting plan in place by Nov. 16," September 22, 2011]</ref>
 
The next court hearing was on November 15 or 16, when Judge Russell would either adopt new maps or send them back to the panel for changes.<ref>[http://www.lvrj.com/news/judge-wants-redistricting-plan-in-place-by-nov-16-130308928.html ''Las Vegas Review Journal'', "Judge wants redistricting plan in place by Nov. 16," September 22, 2011]</ref>

Revision as of 06:45, 2 May 2014

Nevada

BP Redistricting logo.jpg

General Information
Process:   Legislative
Deadline:   -
Total Seats to be Drawn
Congress:   4
State Senate:   21
State House:   42
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This page is about redistricting in Nevada. America's fastest growing state in the '00s, the state gained a Congressional seat, saw rapid increases in minority populations, and became one of the early states to see a lawsuit filed.

Population trends augured well for the Democrats in drawing the new seat.[1] For one thing, population drained from the vast urban stretches into Clark County, greatly concerning the remaining residents of farm country for their seat at the table.[2]

Clark County has indeed been gaining population and representation at the expense of the rest of the state since 1990.[3]

Process

Figure 1: This map shows the Nevada Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

Once the legislature proposes a plan, the Governor may veto it. Should that happen, the legislature may not override a gubernatorial veto. With a Democratically held State Assembly and a Republican Governor in Brian Sandoval, such a scenario was always a possibility.

The first hearing was announced for March 10, 2011.[4] Lawmakers were briefed on target sizes for districts and current discrepancies ahead of time.[5]

Hearings wrapped up on Saturday, April 2, 2011, and the process of drawing maps began the following Monday.[6] Legislators promised to make up for the largely closed-door mapping process by unveiling the maps at public hearing, but there was no promise those later hearings would lead to any revisions.[7]

Leadership

2011

The redistricting process is overseen by the Legislative Operations and Elections committees of the State Assembly and Senate. The members were as follows:

Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee

Democratic Party Democrats (3)

Republican Party Republicans (2)

House Legislative Operations and Elections Committee

Democratic Party Democrats (9)

Republican Party Republicans (6)

Panel

After vetoes by Governor Brian Sandoval (R) led to the legislature's failure to create maps, Judge Todd Russell appointed a panel of three masters to generate maps. The following individuals served on the panel:

  • Alan Glover, Carson Clerk/Recorder
  • Tom Sheets, Las Vegas lawyer
  • Bob Erickson, former director of Legislative Counsel Bureau's Research Division

A hearing occurred on September 19, 2011 with the intent of resolving any remaining legal issues and providing instructions to the panel. All panel meetings were open to the public.[8]

Census results

Nevada's explosive growth owed much to Las Vegas; Clark County alone represented 72% of the state's population in April 2010. Overall, the southwest region boomed, adding its growth among minority residents; Hispanics grew 82% and Asians dwarfed even that at 116%. With the combined minority population at 46% in 2011, whites may be the Nevada minority by 2020.[9]

In addition to representing a minority population, Nevada's Hispanics tend to vote as a bloc, opening the possibility that they may also be treated as a community of interest in drawing boundaries.[10]

Having been promised a favorable open race through the creation of a new legislative seat during the 2001 redistricting and seeing that plan collapse, Hispanics in Nevada were especially forceful in 2011 in looking out for their interests. Their political weight will likely grow in future years. As of 2011, the population was made up of large numbers of minors and people lacking citizenship, two things that will change over time and give the Hispanic voting bloc a bigger role.[11]

A second force to consider is that the Carson City area, dominated by urban Democrats, needed to gain seats after its impressive growth. Unless rural Republicans shepherded a bill to create new districts through the legislature, they would see their influence shrink as some of their seats migrated south.

Specifically, 24 counties grew while 69 shrank; 23 counties lost 10% or more of their population from 2000 to 2010. The 1st and 2nd Districts expanded 9.8% and 12.0%, respectively, compared to the 3rd's 1.6% contraction.[12]

Adding new seats, of course, means money; the Nevada Legislative Council Bureau estimated salary, support, administration, and construction of new office space to average $205,000 per seat added, leading to calls not only to refrain from adding seats but to cut some existing ones.[13]


Top Ten Ranking

According to a report in the Washington Post political blog "The Fix," Nevada was home to one of the top ten redistricting battles in the nation, ranking tenth on the list. Illinois was ranked first.[14]

Special panel maps

On October 14, 2011, the three-member panel of special masters tasked with redrawing the districts in Nevada released draft maps. A hearing was scheduled for October 27 for Judge James Todd Russell to review the maps.[15]

Most notably, the Congressional proposal drew the new 4th District in urban Las Vegas. That district would be 42.7 percent Hispanic.[16] An analysis by Roll Call said the new map would likely result in either a 2-2 split or 3-1 Democratic favor in the Congressional races.[17]

 Special Masters Redistricting Proposals 

Panel maps approved

On October 27, 2011, Judge James Todd Russell approved the maps after meeting with the panel. Several minor changes were made to the maps based on concerns expressed by both parties.[18]

Democratic and Republican lawyers said they would review the maps before deciding if an appeal would be filed to the Supreme Court. Speculation was that there might be a lawsuit from rural Nevada politicians. The main district of contention was Nevada State Senate district 19, which under the new map would span 500 miles. In addressing the concern, Russell said there is no way to pacify everyone.[19] Pete Goicoechea (R), Nevada State Assembly minority leader, said the map "dilutes the 'cow counties.'"[20]

Congressional Map

Gaining a fourth seat in the U.S. House, Nevada took up the challenge of drawing four equitable Districts to cover the bulk of the population, concentrated in Clark County, and the residents of the hundreds of sparsely populated miles.[21] With population growth centered on Clark County, home of Las Vegas, the new District was bound to be drawn around the heavily Democratic urban center, a scenario that would see Nevada's four seats be more or less evenly divided between two 'safe' seats for each party.[22]

In 2001, working out the lines of the then-new 3rd District, successive deals fell through and the process ran into a special session, something elected officials were anxious to avoid across the board. 2001's rancorous session left the executive and legislative branches in open opposition. Much blame fell on a state Senator who had held up the process of defining boundaries for the third District, already knowing he intended to run for the new seat.[23]

Scenarios

Among the first detailed plans to emerge was a plan drawn by IBEW, the electrical workers' union, at the request of Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford. Not surprisingly, the plan, touted as "perfect" by IBEW, heavily favored Horsford should he choose to seek to represent the new Congressional seat.[24]

An additional possibility emerged in the form of rumors that Democratic Representative Shelly Berkley might seek a U.S. Senate seat, opening up her seat not just to hopeful candidates but making her less protective of the borders of a district she wasn't intending to keep.[25]

Desires expressed by citizens during public hearings pointed to a potential source of tension. Hispanics, 26.5% of Nevada's population, wanted a seat of their own, one with such concentrated numbers of Hispanic voters as to virtually ensure they could elect their preferred candidates. However, that voting bloc skews to the Democratic party, for now, and top Dems eyed a map where the state's Hispanics would be split up in such a way as to make all four seats in Nevada into swing districts.[26] The GOP Latino Caucus backed a Hispanic seat and Governor Brian Sandoval, the first Hispanic to hold the office, made it clear he would veto any map he found to be unfair.

Partisan tensions

Democrats controlled the legislative branch, but not by enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto, meaning Republican Brian Sandoval had the option of a gubernatorial veto.

Nevada's Hispanic population largely votes Democratic, but they will cross over in big numbers to support specific candidates, backing George W. Bush in 2004's Presidential race and coming out in force in 2010 to make Sandoval the state's first Hispanic Governor. This dynamic might have led the governor to consider exercising his veto on a plan that would harm his own party if it meant he would also fall out of favor with Nevada's large and growing Hispanic bloc.

Minority Republicans in the legislature were already unhappy over what they saw as a repeat of 2001's gerrymandering. They pointed to statistics from the 2010 elections -- when they only won 16 of 42 Assembly districts despite having more voters turn out than the Dems -- to demonstrate that existing seats give short shrift to Nevada's Republican population.[27]

First lawsuit

Anticipating that the legislature might not complete redistricting by June 6, 2011, when sine die occurred, Nevada Democrats filed a precautionary lawsuit on February 24, 2011 - the first day they were able to do so as the law does not allow any redistricting lawsuits to be filed until full data is delivered by the Census Bureau.[28]

The suit sought to ensure that any lawsuits would be heard in the state capitol of Carson City, where the Dems had some hope of using their legislative majorities and countering the fact that Governor Brian Sandoval belonged to the GOP. Fear that Governor Sandoval might veto the legislature's redistricting plan was a partial driver of the suit.

Specifically, the suit named Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller, and sought to bar him from administering any elections or certifying any results for the 2012 election cycle until all three series of maps - Congressional, Assembly, and Senate - were complete.

The argument was that Carson City's courts have substantial experience with election and law and are therefore the most logical and speedy courts to take any redistricting cases.

Figure 2: This map shows the Nevada Assembly Districts after the 2000 census.
Figure 3: This map shows the Nevada Senate Districts after the 2000 census.

Ensign resignation

When, in March of 2011, embattled and scandalized Senator John Ensign announced he would not seek a third term, the possibility of a Senate race became easier for any Congressman considering the move. Between that new likelihood and the creation of a 4th U.S. House seat, Nevada was not at all in the position of having to placate anxious incumbent Congressional figures in their map-making.

Ensign's resignation only weeks later threw a wrench in the works; under Nevada law, Governor Brian Sandoval had the privilege of filling the vacancy and the distinct possibility that he would name a sitting Congressmen created the possibility of an open seat in the 2012 House elections.[29] An early favorite was Republican Dean Heller of the second district; his elevation to the Senate would create, in turn, on open seat in the U.S. House.

While Nevada has filled Senate vacancies eight times, the state had never dealt with a Congressional vacancy midterm; there is law on the matter but it remained untested when Ensign stepped down.[30] The Governor has seven days to call a special election, though the manner in which candidates declare to run is up to the Secretary of State, Democrat Ross Miller.[31]

First maps

Democrats held off on proposing Congressional boundaries alongside the legislative maps released in late April. The GOP did however offer a map, one with two Democratic, one Republican, and one competitive seat.[32] Hispanics immediately complained the map did not pay enough attention to their demographics.

The proposal made the new 4th into an urban seat that would be wholly surrounded by the 1st. It also split the current second to make up the 2nd and 3rd.[33]

The Democratic map was published the first week of May, drawing three competitive seats and one that leaned to the GOP.[34] A nascent battle emerged over how to handle the state's Hispanic population - a sizable 26% of the state. Dems wanted minority 'influence' seats while the GOP pointed to the sheer numbers of Hispanics and argued for minority 'opportunity' districts. What that difference looked like on paper was evidenced by the competing visions for the new 4th seat, where Democrats drew borders for 22.88% Hispanic voters compared to the GOP's 50.70%. In terms of the Democratic registration advantage, the respective gap was stark: 8.1% to 22.9%, leading to Democratic charges that the GOP move to hand such an advantage to their rivals in one seat was a bid to keep the other three districts more right-leaning.

Floor vote

On Tuesday, May 10, 2011, the Nevada State Assembly passed both the Senate and Assembly maps, with at least one Democrat crossing the aisle to cast a 'no' ballot.[35] SB 497 passed the two chambers by, respectively, 11-10 and 25-17.[36]

Republicans still maintained the maps were unfair to minorities and both sides clearly expected a veto from Governor Brian Sandoval. There was also an early sense the entire process would ultimately land before a judge.[37]

The difference in Hispanic percentages in each district between the Democratic and Republican plans highlighted a known difference and invited comment on the entire situation, including pointed criticism that the Hispanic vote trends Democratically so strongly as to make fights over how to divide that demographic more political and less racial than the public statements of both parties let on.[38]

Gubernatorial veto

As predicted, Governor Sandoval vetoed the bill on May 14, a Saturday. In his veto message, he accused Democrats of violating the Voting Rights Act and described the maps as inequitable to minorities. Speaking specifically to the maps' treatment of Hispanics, he said, "With Hispanics accounting for 46 percent of the total population growth in our state over the last 10 years, this transparent effort to avoid creating even one additional district where this community would be likely to elect its candidate of choice is simply not acceptable."[39]

Anticipating the veto, legislative Democrats were already working on a new map, though they did comment that neither the Governor nor his staff had public testimony on the map during their formation and described the veto as, "an overt act of partisanship designed to appease his Republican base."[40] With placeholder lawsuits from both parties already before federal judges and an increasingly venomous atmosphere in the Assembly, few thought an override was at all possible.[41][42]

The Democrats wasted little time in moving on a new bill. AB 566 was amended and passed, again on a party line vote, out of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee on Tuesday, May 17, 2011. A vote on the floor was expected the following day.[43] The major change was to the boundaries proposed for the 3rd Congressional seat, then held by Democrat Joe Heck.

Second maps

No sooner was SB 497 dead than Democrats revived and slightly altered AB 566, before easily passing it out of committee.[44] Following the party line vote in committee, the majority party unanimously backed AB 566 on the Assembly floor, passing it 26-16, only two votes shy of overriding a second gubernatorial veto.[45][46]

While they had no guarantee Governor Sandoval would not veto their map a second time, the session timing meant it was not at all inconceivable that a third set of maps could be passed, if needed.[47]

Republicans sought a hearing on their maps but, after they refused to reveal the data behind their proposal to the satisfaction requested by Democrats, the majority party refused to allow any hearing to go forward.[48][49] Later that day, Republicans changed course and released the data in the format Democrats desired, receiving, in return, a pledge from the majority party to hold a hearing.[50]

The spirit of cooperation survived for minutes, before Republicans put forward two criteria that Democrats immediately rejected. They specifically wanted a distribution of minority voters according to their own maps and an assurance that the maps would not cede dominance to the Democratic party.[51]

The bill sailed through the Assembly on a 25-16 vote and a sea of GOP complaints. May 25, 2011 brought another party line vote. Republicans uniformly lined up against AB 566, but could not thwart Democrats from passing it 11-10.[52] In the end, what legislators sent to Governor Sandoval was only slightly different the first item he vetoed.[53]

Nor was either side stingy with their thoughts about the opposition. Las Vegas Senator Moises "Mo" Denis said Republican efforts in redistricting had gone from ."..comical to absurd to now bordering on offensive..."

Second veto

To no one's real surprise, Brian Sandoval delivered a swift second veto. His message accompanying the veto echoed the first veto, saying he had vetoed the second map for the same reasons that he found the first one unsatisfactory.[54] 'The plan reflected in the bill did not provide for the fair representation of the people of the state of Nevada, nor did it comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

Majority Democrats said they would only release a third map if they had some assurances about the willingness of Republicans to 'negotiate' with them, a less than subtle signal that all involved had given the process up to the courts. Democratic Assemblyman Tick Segerblom struck a laconic tone when he noted that, "all it takes is a little divine intervention."[55]

Nevada Latino Redistricting Coalition map

By the time the Republicans and Democrats had agreed to hold a hearing, a small prize for so much fighting, Nevada's Hispanics had given up on the legislature and instead drew their own map for the state's four Congressional seats.[56]

It made NV-3, held by Joe Heck, the focus and turned the seat from a swing seat into a true blue district. Hispanics made up 41% of the district's population, and 35% of them would be eligible voters. The partisan split came down to 50% for Democrats and 28% for the GOP. Those numbers came in above what Democrats would do Hispanics and below the Republican numbers, designed to make one strong Hispanic district while optimizing the demographic's numbers in other seats.

When they released their map, the NLRC spoke out against Republican maps and criticized the idea that the GOP's suggestion of a 50% Hispanic seat was a boost for their group, instead accusing Republicans of trying to pack Hispanics.

Still, those Hispanics who broke with their fellows used their own organization to comment on the redistricting process. Nevada Latinos for Prosperity said of the Democratic plan, it "will continue to keep the minority population silenced and unrepresented."[57] The same statement made a point of historical Hispanic voting trends in Nevada, arguing the Democrats were improper is assuming Hispanics were a loyal blue voting bloc.

The ten Hispanics in the state legislature were all Democrats who backed their party's maps.[58]

Third map

"This shouldn't be decided in court. Redistricting is a political matter, not a legal matter," was the opinion of Assemblyman Segerblom as he announced his fellow Democrats were serious about ironing out a compromise with the GOP. Minority Leader Mike McGinness named a pair of Senators, Barbara Cegavske and James Settelmeyer, to be his party's point-men in discussions.[59]

The hopeful tone coupled with anxiety about achieving redistricting with only days remaining in the session was voiced by James Settelmeyer, to date one of the most publicly pessimistic about redistricting, who became something of the legislature's resident imp when he told the press, "There is a rumor that there is discussion that there might be some discussions..."

McGinness followed that comment up with the more adult but less fun, "Wouldn't it be great if we could get this done in time Monday (for adjournment)?"

It all came to naught as the session closed.[60] Assembly Segerblom confessed, "I think we just ran out of time. In his colleague, Rep. Settlemeyer's view, ."..it's going to court. The Democrats want us to give up too much. And all we want are a fair set of maps."[61] There was still the option that the Governor could immediately call a special session.

With the session's end, lawyers on both sides sat down to review what had been done in other states as they prepared for their own court battle.[62] Carson City District Judge James T. Russell was still slated to hear the case, expected to drag on for months. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State had until June 20, 2011 to respond to complaints filed by both parties.[63]

Legislative maps

At the state level, as lawmakers explored options for divvying up the fastest growing state of the past decade, the exploding Hispanic vote loomed. In 2000, four seats, two in the Senate and two in the House, were drawn to favor Hispanic voters. The ensuing years saw some 300,000 Hispanics move into the state, with the result that America's fastest growing minority represented 26% of the Silver State's population as of the 2010 Census.

Asians, only 7 percent of Nevada's citizens as of 2010 but still growing quickly, were also poised to possibly pick up a legislative District drawn to favor them, contingent on whether or not the population was grouped closely enough to make drawing favorable boundaries feasible.[64]

Census data gave rise to the possibility of Southern Nevada, which trends Democratic, gaining up to three seats in the legislature, one in the Senate and two in the Assembly. In all, state lawmakers could grow their ranks by half a dozen under a plan proposed by ex-Reno Senator Bill Raggio, in which Nevada would add two Senators and four Assemblymen for the 2012 elections. Raggio, a moderate Republican who spent 35 years cultivating a place as a negotiator between the parties, lost his leadership post in 2008 and resigned early in 2011.[65][66]

Nevada also allows lawmakers to reassess boundaries for some county level offices and possibly add districts. Legally, the number of office holders, such as County Commissioners, must rise with the population, keeping the number of citizens each official represents below a set limit. However, the Nevada Legislative Commission has, in the past, raised the limit rather than add more offices.[67]

First maps

Majority Democrats planned to publicize their first maps during the day on Thursday, April 28, 2011, with an evening debate to follow. Unusually, both chambers were set to meet in separate Committees of the Whole, a move designed to allow all lawmakers to take in and comment on the proposed maps at the same time.[68] The tactic was still parsed for ulterior motives by some who wondered if the timing - redistricting got almost no attention until fairly late in the session - was a ploy to create urgency and use that to piggyback tax and budget items onto redistricting.[69]

Legislative maps were expected to preserve 21 Senate and 42 Assembly seats, moving one and two, respectively, into Clark County.[70] The state's two remaining dual districts were predicted to vanish after redistricting.[71] At that point, the GOP was behind, and the lower chamber's Minority Leader, Peter Goicoechea, simply said, "At this point we don’t have any maps to bring."

Goicoechea's northern seat was eliminated in initial Democratic maps, as was that of term limited Senator Greg Brower, who had already announced his Congressional race.[72] Goicoechea, however, came out in favor of the Democratic plan, saying, "Some of the stuff (Democrats) proposed clearly makes more sense."[73] That same map nested two Assembly districts inside each Senate seat, something that would end multiple cases of borders for the different chambers not aligning and would, per the majority party, reduce voter confusion. The GOP plan also shifted seats to the more populous south, though it preserved more of the status quo than the Democratic vision.

For one thing, Republican maps kept the current partisan advantage at 26-16 in the Assembly and 14-7 in the Senate, both in favor of Democrats. Dems matched that 14-7 split in the Senate but drew an Assembly map that pushed their advantage to 30-12.[74] Republicans also took the step of renumbering each district in the state in their maps. Under Nevada's code, incumbents cannot use "reelect" in their campaigns if their district number changes.[75]

At the last minute before publishing maps, staff attorneys for the House advised Republicans that their maps did not meet Voting Rights Act requirements and went so far as to recommend against releasing them at all. Instead, House Republicans had to rely only on the maps made by their Senate colleagues to make their case.[76] Disappointed Representatives admitted they should have taken more of a role in the Senate's process so as not to be wholly unable to speak on those maps.

Over the next week, the GOP tweaked their map, altering rural district lines to lie more neatly along county boundaries, cutting down the numbers of separate counties lawmakers would need to attend to.[77]

Committee action

Over the first weekend in May, the Senate and Assembly committees on Legislative Operations and Elections passed both maps, SB497 and AB566, on party line votes over the protests of the minority GOP.[78] Republicans claimed Democrats were "packing" Hispanics in order to dilute their vote and, in so doing, were violating the VRA. Both parties continued to use redistricting's treatment of Hispanics as the cornerstone of their criticisms.[79] On the Senate side, Republicans pressed the question of why only the Democratic map was presented as a draft bill, and were able to pass a motion to have their own map submitted as a draft, only for the next move to be a motion to pass the Democratic bill.[80]

Assembly Minority Leader Goicoechea's comment on the two was maps was, "We expect their bill will pass through the Senate and Assembly, and then be vetoed. When it comes back, the veto will be sustained."[81] That assessment tallied with the growing sense among political observers that Nevada's maps were going to end up in the courts one way or another.

Legal issues

Legislature's failure to finish maps

On June 22, 2011, Judge James Todd Russell met with both Democratic and Republican lawyers to discuss the redistricting lawsuits.[82]

Nevada First Judicial District Court Judge James Russell ruled on July 12, 2011 that a special panel would be charged with completing the redistricting process in Nevada.[83] Russell said he would like to see the panel restricted to only 3 or 4 people. Reaction was mixed around the state, with some officials supporting the idea while others questioned the ability of this panel to successfully consider all interests.[84]

Russell gave lawyers until July 20 to propose panel members. The panel of "special masters" would then oversee the final map-drawing process.[85] Judge Russell suggested that using county voter registrars could be a way to remove the political nature of the maps. Governor Brian Sandoval (R) commended that idea and suggested Scott Wasserman -- chief executive officer and special counsel to regents -- as a backup option if the registrars did not agree to the process.[86]

New panel

On July 20, 2011, Secretary of State Ross Miller submitted a list of possible candidates for the panel to Judge James Todd Russell. The motion with the list of names also contained reference to the possibility that the judge can force the Governor to call a special session. In particular, a prior example was referenced from 1965, when the court ordered the governor to declare a special session to create a new redistricting plan.[87]

Meanwhile, lawyers from both parties requested that the court decide whether Nevada qualified for a majority-minority Congressional seat in due to the large Hispanic population in the state. Democrats contended that creating a majority-minority district would dilute Latino influence. Republicans contended that the requirements of the Voting Rights Act mandated that a majority-minority district be created because of the population percentages.[88]

September 21 court hearing

A three-hour court hearing was held on September 21, 2011 to provide more guidance to the court-appointed panel that took on the roll of drawing congressional and state legislative districts. Judge James Russell said he wanted to approve a new redistricting plan by November 16, 2011. In the court hearing, Democratic lawyers argued against the need for majority-minority Hispanic districts.[89]

It was also announced that there would be two public hearings held on October 10 and October 11, at which time citizens could weigh in on possible maps.[90]

The next court hearing was on November 15 or 16, when Judge Russell would either adopt new maps or send them back to the panel for changes.[91]

State Supreme Court intervenes

In October 2011, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller asked the State Supreme Court to force the lower court to have a greater say in the process. At the time District Court Judge James Todd Russell appointed a panel of three masters to draw the maps before an October 21 deadline. But Miller contended that Russell did not provide sufficient guidance in the process and did not rule on questions submitted by both Democrats and Republicans. The primary question at hand was how the Voting Rights Act should be interpreted with respect to the number of majority-minority Congressional districts.[92]

On October 5, 2011, the State Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments in the redistricting case on November 14, 2011.[93]

Special masters hearings

In October 2011, the three-member special masters panel held hearings regarding the drawing of the districts. Democratic Party lawyers argued that Nevada has a history of electing Hispanics, and thus there is less of a requirement to draw strict majority-minority districts to ensure minorities have a chance at election. Meanwhile, GOP attorneys testified that majority-minority districts were needed because of white voter bias. The main issue of disagreement centered around whether one of the four Congressional districts and 12 of the 63 state legislative districts should be majority-minority.[94]

Meanwhile, on October 12, 2011, special master Tom Sheets asked the two parties to resolve their differences, suggesting that was a better option than the panel drawing the new maps. "You can make the special masters irrelevant if you choose to," Sheets said.[95]

No challenges

There were no challenges filed against the new maps passed by the special masters panel.[96]

History

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[97]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 1.97%
State Senate Districts 9.91%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Constitutional explanation

The Nevada Constitution provides authority over redistricting to the Legislature in Section 5 of Article 4.

See also

External links

References

  1. Washington Post, "Odds good for Democrats as Nevada adds a seat," January 21, 2011
  2. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Nevada rural voters' power slips," March 28, 2011
  3. Nevada State Legislature, "Redistricting Fact Sheet No. 9," March 2011
  4. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Nevada lawmakers prepare for redistricting process," February 25, 2011
  5. Fox Reno, "Hearings Begin on Nevada Redistricting," March 11, 2011
  6. 8 News Now, "Lawmakers Begin Redistricting Debate," April 1, 2011
  7. Nevada News Bureau, "Nevadans Outline Stakes As Legislature Plans New Political Districts," April 3, 2011
  8. Nevada Appeal, "Russell names three masters to handle redistricting," August 4, 2011
  9. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Nevada lawmakers prepare for redistricting process," February 25, 2011
  10. Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Hearings begin on redistricting in Nevada," March 10, 2011
  11. The Republic, "Study: Neb. Latino voting-eligible population small but likely to grow in coming years," March 17, 2011
  12. The University of Omaha, "Press Conference: Summary of Nebraska Redistricting Data from the 2010 Census," March 2, 2011
  13. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Hearings begin on redistricting in Nevada," March 11, 2011
  14. Washington Post, "The Fix," "Redistricting battles hit a fever pitch," June 3, 2011
  15. Nevada News Bureau, "Special Masters File Report, Maps, With Carson Judge – Propose Urban Las Vegas Congressional District," October 14, 2011
  16. The Republic, "Court masters propose splitting Nevada's northern congressional district; still need approval," October 14, 2011
  17. Roll Call, "Democrats Look to Pick Up Two Seats in Nevada," October 20, 2011
  18. The Republic, "Judge tweaks and approves Nevada voting maps," October 27, 2011
  19. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Judge tweaks, approves Nevada redistricting maps ," October 27, 2011
  20. Las Vegas Sun "'Cow counties' threaten stampede over legislative maps," October 26, 2011
  21. Reno Gazette-Journal, "Redistricting legislators could face rebellion if they mess up," December 12, 2010
  22. Washington Post, "Odds good for Democrats as Nevada adds a seat," January 21, 2011
  23. Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Redistricting exploits sometimes fail to achieve intended goals," December 23, 2010
  24. Nevada News and Reviews, "IBEW Proposes “Perfect” Redistricting Plan," March 11, 2011
  25. Las Vegas Sun, "As Berkley eyes Ensign’s Senate seat, Legislature sharpens redistricting knife," March 13, 2011
  26. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Hispanics a force in Nevada's redistricting," April 3, 2011
  27. Nevada News Bureau, "Allegations Of Gerrymandering Fly As Legislators Address Redistricting," March 16, 2011
  28. Las Vegas Sun, "Even before first redistricting plan is presented, Democrats make first legal move in Carson City court," February 24, 2011
  29. Christian Science Monitor, "John Ensign resignation puts focus on Nevada elections. Will GOP have an edge?," April 22, 2011
  30. Los Angeles Times, "In Nevada, an early testing ground for 2012," April 29, 2011
  31. Las Vegas Sun, "If Dean Heller chosen to replace John Ensign, fallout would be felt down the ticket," April 22, 2011
  32. This is Reno, "Republicans in the Nevada Legislature introduce redistricting plans," April 29, 2011
  33. Fox5, "Nevada GOP, Dems Unveil Redistricting Plans," April 28, 2011
  34. Nevada News Bureau, "Democrats Unveil Proposed Congressional District Maps," May 5, 2011
  35. Lahontan Valley News, :Redistricting passes Nevada Legislature," May 10, 2011
  36. Reno Gazette Journal, "Democrats pass redistricting bills," May 10, 2011
  37. Reno Gazette Journal, "Nevada redistricting bill passes Legislature," May 10, 2011
  38. Nevada News Bureau, "In Redistricting Battle, Political Parties Argue Over “Who Loves Hispanics More”," May 11, 2011
  39. Las Vegas Sun "Gov. Sandoval vetoes Democrats’ redistricting maps," May 14, 2011
  40. The Republic, "APNewsBreak: Gov. Sandoval vetoes Nevada redistricting bill; override unlikely," May 14, 2011
  41. Nevada News Bureau, "Governor Sandoval Vetoes Democratic Redistricting Plan," May 14, 2011
  42. Nevada Appeal, "Nevada governor vetoes redistricting," May 14, 2011
  43. Greenfield Reporter, "Nevada Assembly panel passes new Democratic redistricting bill after gov veto," May 17, 2011
  44. Daily Journal, "Nevada Assembly panel passes new Democratic redistricting bill after gov veto," May 17, 2011
  45. Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Democrats OK new redistricting bill," May 19, 2011
  46. Times Union, "NV Assembly passes Dems' 2nd try at redistricting," May 18, 2011
  47. Nevada News Bureau, "Democrats introduce revised Congressional maps," May 17, 2011
  48. Nevada News Bureau, "Democrats Refuse To Hear Republican Redistricting Proposal After Tiff," May 19, 2011
  49. Reno Gazette-Journal, "Nevada Dems' redistricting plan advances amid GOP nays," May 19, 2011
  50. Real Clear Politics "Impasse on Nevada redistricting fight eases," May 20, 2011
  51. Nevada Appeal, "New tensions erupt in Nevada redistricting fight," May 21, 2011
  52. Real Clear Politics, "Nevada redistricting gets another party line vote," May 25, 2011
  53. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Legislators send redistricting, other bills to governor," May 25, 2011
  54. Reno Gazette Journal, "Sandoval again vetoes redistricting proposal," May 31, 2011
  55. The Greenfield Reporter, "GOP Nevada governor vetoes Democrats' 2nd draft at redistricting maps after political battle," May 31, 2011
  56. las Vegas Sun, "Latino leaders come up with their own plan for redistricting," May 20, 2011
  57. News Review, "Hispanics and redistricting," May 26, 2011
  58. Las Vegas Review-Journal, "New tensions boil over in Nevada redistricting battle," May 21, 2011
  59. las Vegas Review Journal, "Democrat, GOP lawmakers to collaborate on redistricting plan," June 2, 2011
  60. Real Clear Politics, "Nevada redistricting efforts fizzle," June 6, 2011
  61. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Redistricting appears dead in Nevada Legislature," June 7, 2011
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  63. Las Vegas Sun, "Redistricting stalemate could end up in court or special session," June 9, 2011
  64. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Hispanic lawmakers increase clout in Carson City, Activists expect more gains in redistricting," December 13, 2010
  65. Las Vegas Sun, "Raggio void dramatically alters Senate landscape," January 6, 2011
  66. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Horsford takes a blow," January 9, 2011
  67. Reno Gazette Journal, "Washoe County to get seven commissioners … or not," January 4, 2011
  68. Stamford Advocate, "Lawmakers to unveil proposed voting district maps," April 26, 2011
  69. Write On Nevada, "Redistricting likely to muddy the waters," April 26, 2011
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  72. The Republic, "Republicans release plan for redistricting Nevada legislature, await Democratic counter-offer," April 28, 2011
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  75. Nevada News Bureau, "Republican and Democrats Release Competing Political District Maps," April 28, 2011
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  78. Reno Gazette Journal, "Legislative panels pass Nevada redistricting plan," May 7, 2011
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  81. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Legislative committees pass Democrats' redistricting plan," May 7, 2011
  82. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Judge meets with lawyers on Nevada redistricting plan," June 22, 2011
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  84. Reno Gazette-Journal, "Special panel to draw Nevada voting districts," July 12, 2011
  85. KTVN "Hearing Held in Nevada Redistricting Suit," July 12, 2011
  86. Las Vegas Sun "Sandoval: Courts will ultimately decide whether counties get money back," July 14, 2011
  87. Greenfield Reporter "Secretary of state suggests redistricting masters; says judge could consider special session," July 20, 2011
  88. Las Vegas Review Journal, "GOP, Democrats seek legal ruling on Hispanic majority district," July 20, 2011
  89. Houston Chronicle "Nevada judge orders public redistricting hearings," September 21, 2011
  90. Nevada News Bureau, "Carson Judge Russell Expected To Rule Quickly On Redistricting Guidelines, Sets Public Hearings For Oct. 10-11," September 21, 2011
  91. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Judge wants redistricting plan in place by Nov. 16," September 22, 2011
  92. Las Vegas Sun "Ross Miller asks Nevada Supreme Court to intervene in redistricting case," October 3, 2011
  93. The Republic, "Nevada Supreme Court to hear whether Legislature ignored responsibility for redistricting," October 5, 2011
  94. Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Democratic, GOP lawyers spar about Hispanic districts," October 11, 2011
  95. Nevada Appeal, "Special master suggests parties in redistricting battle work it out," October 12, 2011
  96. Las Vegas Sun "No challenges filed to Nevada redistricting maps," December 7, 2011
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