Secretary of state suggests list of candidates for redistricting panel

CARSON CITY - Secretary of State Ross Miller submitted a roster of candidates Wednesday to serve on a court-appointed panel to redraw Nevada's voting districts, and said the judge could consider ordering Gov. Brian Sandoval to call a special session and force lawmakers to deal with the sticky issue.

The motion filed by Deputy Attorney General Kevin Benson on Miller's behalf recommended a mix of candidates with political, legal and business backgrounds.

At a hearing earlier this month, Carson City District Judge James Russell said he wants to take politics out of redrawing Nevada voting districts and will appoint a panel of special masters to oversee the task left unresolved by the 2011 Legislature.

"I don't want anybody with political agendas, I'll be honest with you," Russell told lawyers for the Republican and Democratic parties and secretary of state's office during a July 12 hearing. "I want people who want to do this fairly and impartially, and get it done as quickly as possible and on as fair a basis as we can."

Topping Miller's list were Richard Bryan, a former Democratic governor and U.S. senator; and former state Sens. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Terry Care, D-Las Vegas.

Others are Alan Glover, Carson City Clerk-Recorder; Eva Garcia-Mendoza, a Las Vegas attorney; Heather Murren, co-founder of the Nevada Cancer Institute; and Robert Erickson, a retired Legislative Counsel Bureau research director.

Russell had asked the secretary of state and lawyers for the Republican and Democratic parties to file their suggestions by 5 p.m. Wednesday, and raise any legal issues that should be considered.

"A potential legal issue for the court to consider is the involvement of the political branches in the process, pursuant to the Legislature's 'mandatory duty' to reapportion following each decennial census," Benson wrote.

The motion cited a 1965 case where the court ordered the governor to call a special session to create a new redistricting plan.

"A successful special session would moot this litigation," Benson's motion said.

Responses from lawyers for the Republican and Democratic parties were not publically available late Wednesday.

Two sets of maps drawn and approved by the Democratic majority in the 2011 session were vetoed by Sandoval, who called them illegal. No hearings were ever held on competing maps proposed by Republicans.

Sandoval refused to call lawmakers into special session to complete the business of reconfiguring 21 state Senate and 42 Assembly districts, and carve out a fourth congressional district that Nevada gained based on the 2010 Census.

Republicans opposed the Democratic maps, saying they diluted the political power of minority groups, especially Hispanics, by spreading them out into different districts. Democrats countered that Republican proposals minimized the political clout of minorities by packing them into concentrated areas.

The redistricting stalemate has potential office seekers in political limbo, because they don't know how the voting districts will be aligned. Candidate filings for state offices begin in March.

While state Senate and Assembly candidates must live in the district they run for, that's not the case with U.S. House candidates.

This week, Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, and former Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, announced their bids for Congress, though they don't know which districts they'll be running in.

Oceguera is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election to the Assembly. Titus served one two-year term representing Nevada's 3rd Congressional District. She was defeated in November by Republican Joe Heck.


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