(Jim Clark) – In the November 2010 general election, Republican candidates running for Nevada State Senate outpolled Democratic state senate candidates by 15%; Republican assembly candidates outpolled Democratic assembly candidates by 10%. So Republicans should have comfortable margins in both houses, correct?
Nope. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the senate 11 to 10 and in the assembly 26 to 16. How can this be? The explanation goes back to 1812 when Eldridge Gerry was governor of Massachusetts. Readers will recall that the U.S. Constitution requires that there be a decennial census and that congressional districts be reapportioned after each census to reflect population changes. Following the 1810 census, Governor Gerry was in control of district boundaries, so he drew maps that placed nearly all the Whigs in one congressional district and distributed members of his own Democratic-Republican Party into the others so they would have majorities in each. One of his districts resembled a salamander, so the governor’s corruption of the Constitutional mandate became known as “gerrymandering.”
In 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that all electoral districts must be drawn on the basis of one person/one vote, and in 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which ensured there could be no “gerrymandering” to dilute the voting strength of minority communities. The law actually goes further and requires the affirmative establishment of minority congressional and state legislative districts whenever the census reveals a geographic bunching of minority group members such that it is possible for them to be formed into voting majorities.
This has not always worked perfectly, and Nevada is a textbook example of how and why that’s so. After the 2000 census, Nevada gained a new congressional district. State law says the legislature draws the boundaries and the governor either vetoes the proposal or signs it into law. Nevada had a Republican governor, a Democratic Assembly and a Republican Senate. From Washington, the Bush Administration signaled that they wanted the new congressional district to favor the GOP, or have at least a 50-50 voter registration split. Assembly Democrats were looking to increase their hold on their chamber so they made a deal. If they could draw assembly district maps they would approve a 50-50 congressional district map. The result: Republican Jon Porter eked out a victory in the new congressional district and Democrat-leaning Clark County assembly districts were drawn with a population of as few as 12,000, while in Northern Nevada Republican-leaning districts have a population of as many as 125,000. With a one person/one vote mandate how could that happen? Simple. A deal was made, so no one sued.
Fast forward to the present. The 2010 census figures clearly show that one congressional district, four state senate districts and seven assembly districts, all with Latino majorities, could be created in Clark County. Additionally, one Latino majority assembly district could be created in Washoe County. And that’s exactly what the Republican redistricting maps propose.
The Democratic maps show Latino majorities as follows: congressional districts, none; state senate districts, none; assembly districts, four. Other than those four assembly districts, Democrats propose to keep the Latino population as a numerical minority in all other Nevada districts. The headline should read: Democrats To Latinos – Drop Dead. There is no deal pending, so the courts will end up deciding.
This is entirely consistent with the national Democratic Party policy of promising to pass immigration reform and the DREAM Act during election campaigns, ignoring the promise when they controlled Congress and the White House, and with the 2012 election approaching, dusting off those promises only to make excuses because Republicans now control the House of Representatives. Their policy towards Latinos seems to be: Free tacos every other November.” Ronald Reagan once said, “Latinos are all Republicans, they just don’t know it.”
Many are learning pretty quickly.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee.)