(Andrew Doughman/Nevada News Bureau) – State Republicans and Democrats today released their proposals for new state legislative political districts.
The competing proposals for state Assembly and Senate districts both keep the Legislature at its current size of 63 legislators.
The Democratic proposal, however, includes a new concept for Senate districts that have 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 levels.
The proposal could also save thousands of dollars, said Larry Lomax, Clark County Registrar of Voters.
“The more the lines coincide … the less ballot styles you create,” Lomax said. “The fewer number of ballot styles you have, the cheaper it is to do your printing.”
Lomax said that his office printed 307 different types of ballots for the 2010 general elections in Clark County.
The Democratic proposal promises a 30 – 12 Democratic split in the Assembly and a 14 – 7 advantage in the Senate, according to voters registered Democratic and Republican in each proposed district.
The Republican proposal reflects a 26 – 16 Democratic advantage in the Assembly, which is the same as the ratio in the current Assembly. The Republican plan for the state Senate would create 14 seats with more voters registered as Democrats and seven seats with a Republican voter-advantage.
But the presence of large numbers of independents and third-party voters means many of these districts could swing blue or red.
About 470,000 Nevadans are registered as Democrats as opposed to about 405,000 registered Republican.
Republicans Release Congressional Plan, Hispanic Vote Proves Contentious
Republicans also released a plan for Nevada’s four congressional districts, one of which is new due to population growth between 2000 and 2010.
The districts include what Republicans say are two districts likely to elect Democrats and two districts likely to elect Republican candidates.
- The proposals drew rapid criticism from Hispanic advocacy groups that called the proposals unfair to Hispanics. The proposed population of congressional district four contains 44.3 percent voting-aged Hispanics.
“This proposal does not enhance the ability for the Hispanic community to elect candidates of choice,” said Javier Trujillo of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, who said Hispanics are packed together to the extent that their vote is diluted in other districts.
Republicans, however, contended that a majority-minority district increases the likelihood that a Hispanic candidate will be elected to Congress.
Advocacy groups and legislators argued the same points about minority populations during a Democratic press conference today, touting the Democrat’s proposals as “common sense” and “fair” while disparaging the Republican proposals as unfair to their communities.
“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,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas.
Proposed Maps Also Eliminate Seats For Two Incumbents, Eradicate Dual Senate Districts
Both proposals also eliminate Clark County’s two dual-districts, which legislators and constituents alike had criticized.
Democrats and Republicans also responded to population shifts to Clark County in the same manner. The two political parties agreed to eliminate the seats of Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka.
Growth in the southern part of the state meant that current districts are imbalanced and one northern Senate seat and one northern Assembly seats became southern seats in the new proposals.
Brower recently declared his intention to run for Congress and Goicoechea is expected to run for state Senate in rural Nevada, where Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, must leave the Senate due to term limits.
In an odd maneuver, the Republican proposal also changes the numbers of every district. Nevada law prohibits someone from using the word “reelect” if the district number changes.
Democrats have also touted how their maps include Assembly districts that are, as much as possible, bounded by the borders of cities.
The Republican and Democratic plans represent the first takes in what could be a lengthy process to hammer out a compromise between a Republican governor and a Democratic-controlled Legislature. If the two parties cannot reach a compromise, the drawing of political districts could end up in the hands of Nevada’s judges.
Parties Constrained By Redistricting Rules
Democrats and Republicans drawing the boundaries of political districts have to follow rules culled from a variety of past court decisions.
All districts must be nearly the same size. Map drawers use the U.S. Census total population figures for Nevada and divide those by the number of districts so that each district has an ideal size. The ideal size for an Assembly seat is about 64,300 people and about 128,600 people for a Senate seat.
Republicans and Democrats must also try to follow as closely as possible the boundaries of cities and counties when drawing maps. Natural boundaries like rivers and man-made boundaries like highways can also serve as convenient boundaries.
The political parties are also generally prevented from drawing incumbent legislators out of their districts.
Finally, the two political parties must consider “communities of interest” when creating political districts. This could prevent rural Nevadans from suddenly being thrown in the same district as urban Nevadans, or keeping a distinct downtown community separate from a suburban community.