Every ten years, following the Federal Census, the Nevada State Legislature is responsible for reapportioning and redistricting the districts for:
- The United States House of Representatives;
- The Nevada State Senate;
- The Nevada State Assembly;
- The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents; and
- The State Board of Education.
Now that the Census numbers are out, it’s been confirmed that Nevada has gained enough population to warrant a fourth congressional seat. That means, the Nevada Legislature must divide the State’s population as nearly as practicable into fourths for these four members of the U.S. House of Representatives. And, because of shifts in population within the state, north to south and east to west, those same committees will be looking at redistricting needs of Nevada’s Senate and Assembly districts as well.
Given the contentiousness of re-districting process, the courts, over the years, have culled a set of rules that these Legislative committees, regardless of political persuasion, must follow in drawing the boundaries of political districts:
- All districts must be relatively the same size. In Nevada’s case, that would mean that the ideal size for an Assembly seat is about 64,300 people and about 128,600 people for a Senate seat.
- In drawing the district boundaries, they should try to follow as closely as possible the boundaries of cities and counties and use natural boundaries, like rivers and man-made boundaries like highways, when it becomes necessary to divide communities/counties between different legislative districts.
- Drawing district lines to oust incumbent legislators is generally not upheld in court challenges.
- Districts should consider “communities of interest” such that they don’t carve up neighborhoods or separate groups of people living in an area that have similar interests.
The legislative committees charged with reapportionment and redistricting for the 2011 Legislative Session are the Committees on Legislative Operations and Elections in the Senate and Assembly. Yesterday, both those committees introduced their proposed redistricting plans. Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas set the stage for the upcoming discussion of the Democratic proposal, saying: ”There are several factors that we will discuss today that guided the development of this plan, including reducing population deviation, following county and city boundaries, fairly reflecting the diversity of our state and restoring common sense and reducing confusion.” Here are links to the maps the Democratic committee introduced:
The Democratic proposal for Congressional redistricting will be introduced next week.
The GOP committee presented their plan earlier in the day, which included Nevada Assembly/Senate maps as well as their proposal for Congressional redistricting using 9 different maps. Noteworthy in the Republican proposal is that they made changes to the district numbers for each and every district. That maneuver begs the question, “What exactly are they up to?” since Nevada law prohibits someone from using the word “re-elect” if the district number changes. Here are links to the maps introduced by the GOP committee:
NEVADA ASSEMBLY NEVADA SENATE US CONGRESS
While members of both political parties want the maps to be fair, definitions of what constitutes “fairness” will see a few challenges before all is said and done in the Legislature. For example, in looking at the Republican proposal, they chose to pack Hispanics into their proposed district #4, giving that district a mix that’s 51% Hispanic and 58% Democratic. The Democratic proposal, however, includes a new concept involving two Assembly districts nested within each Senate district. Democrats said they introduced “nesting” in order to simplify and harmonize how Nevadans are represented at the state level.
Another notable difference between each party’s ‘state-wide” plan is the direction of the line drawing. The Republican plan tends to draw lines east to west making the state of Nevada in the Congressional map look like a giant fancy parfait. The Democratic plan, on the other hand, tends to draw lines north to south instead.
Watch the news over the next couple of weeks as these two plans get bandied back and forth and a final plan surfaces. Once both sides come to an agreement as to what our voting districts should look like, the approved plan will go to Gov. Brian Sandoval who has said he will veto any plan that is not “fair.” That’s when we’ll learn how our Governor defines the term “fair.”
Local governments also reapportion and redistrict the districts for county commission, city council, and school board of trustees. If you’re interested in how that applies in your county or local community, you can contact your appropriate local governing body for more information.