Maps, Hispanic clout disputed in briefs

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Briefs by both the Republicans and Democrats in the redistricting battle focus on how to best protect the rights of Hispanics and where to start the process of drawing congressional and legislative district maps.

Briefs by the two political parties, the League of Women Voters and an individual intervenor, Alex Garza, were filed this week in Carson District Court.

Democratic lawyer Bradley Schrager argued that the bill passed by the 2011 Legislature is the appropriate starting point even though Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed that plan. He said it would "provide the court and special masters an efficient, legally sound foundation that reflects careful consideration by the Nevada Legislature."

He also pointed out that using the 2001 maps as a starting point would make the job of drawing congressional districts more difficult because they outline only three districts, not the four for which Nevada now qualifies.

Mark Hutchison, representing the GOP, urged Judge Todd Russell to start with the 2001 maps, saying the Democratic maps approved in the 2011 session aren't valid because they were vetoed and never became law.

"Essentially, the plaintiffs' suggestion amounts to a judicial override of the governor's veto," he argued. "The court must start with the last political solution."

He said that to fairly represent the voters of the state, the best solution would be to create one congressional district that's safe for Democrats, one safe for Republicans and two competitive districts where either party could win. The alternative, he said, would be two Democrat and two Republican districts, all safe from the other party.

Hutchison also argued that the federal Voting Rights Act protects the ability of ethnic minorities - in this case, Hispanics - to win office at both the legislative and congressional levels by creating "majority-minority" districts that keep those voters together.

He said in his brief that that job should fall to the three special masters appointed by Russell to actually draw the district maps.

Schrager argued that that assumes Hispanics are a homogenous block of voters, that "every Hispanic in Clark County falls into one community of interest whether they be liberal or conservative, rich or poor, Cuban or Salvadoran, recent immigrant or fifth-generation American."

He questioned whether there are enough Hispanics to create a majority-minority congressional district.

In addition, he said, allowing the special masters to interpret the Voting Rights Act makes no sense. Russell has already said that is his job as judge, and none of the special masters is a judge.

"This is a recipe for delay, confusion and legal error," he said.

Schrager argued that, in drawing legislative maps, the masters should do their best to "nest" two Assembly districts in each Senate district - an idea Hutchison argued against, saying lawmakers themselves gave up on that idea long ago and that nesting wasn't done in the 2001 Legislature.

A hearing is set for Wednesday in the case. The three masters named by Russell are Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover; Thomas Sheets of Las Vegas, a longtime arbitrator and respected lawyer; and Robert Erickson, former head of LCB Research Division.


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