Nevada redistricting gets another party line vote

A second attempt to redraw Nevada voting districts got final legislative approval Wednesday on another party line vote, sending it on its way to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and another likely veto.

Ultimately, Nevada's redistricting exercise may be decided by the courts.

AB566 passed the Senate 11-10, with all Republicans opposed.

The bill reconfigures all 42 Assembly and 21 Senate districts, and carves out a fourth congressional district.

Sandoval vetoed the first bill that also passed on party lines, calling the Democratic plan illegal and unfair to minorities.

Partisan bickering has grown, with both sides accusing the other of racial gerrymandering when it comes to Nevada's growing Hispanic population and how voting boundaries are drawn.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, said the latest Democratic plan leaves no opportunity for minority populations to advance their political clout.

Hispanic lawmakers, all Democrats, countered that the GOP plan seeks to pack minorities into tight districts, thereby diluting their broader influence.

"This posturing by the Republican Party has gone from comical to absurd to now bordering on offensive," Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said in a statement. "Our community can speak for itself, and we have made it clear that we oppose this packing scheme."

Assemblywoman Theresa Benitez Thompson, a former Miss Nevada, said she was offended by the Republican plan.

"I represent a diverse district that includes just 24.4 percent Hispanic voting age population," she said. "The Republican scheme essentially takes what could be two districts where our community has an opportunity to elect candidates of our choice and packs Hispanics into one."

Republican lawmakers complain Democrats, who control the Senate and Assembly by slim margins, have refused to hold hearings on Republican map proposals.

"This one again is just being pushed through" without consideration of the GOP alternative, said Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, before Wednesday's floor vote.

The Republican plan calls for one congressional district that contains a majority of Hispanics, along with four state Senate and eight state Assembly districts with Hispanic majorities.

Under the Democratic plan, Nevada's 3rd Congressional District would have the highest Hispanic concentration of 36.7 percent. Two Assembly districts would have Hispanic majorities and four would have Hispanic populations of more than 40 percent. For the state Senate, two would be predominantly Hispanic and three would have Hispanic populations above 30 percent.

Reapportionment, conducted every decade to adjust for population shifts based on Census data, is a festering chore made worse by raw tensions among lawmakers as the 2011 session nears adjournment June 6.

Lawsuits have already been filed in state and federal court, arguing lawmakers are unable to redraw state voting boundaries fairly and legally.


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