Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would turn reapportionment over to a commission instead of the Legislature on Tuesday filed an amended petition with the Secretary of State.
The amendment would turn redistricting over to a seven-member panel consisting of four appointees — one each by the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and Assembly plus three “independent” members. The three would be chosen by the four party appointees and could not be either Republican or Democrat.
The new petition amends the Description of Effect as ordered by Carson District Judge Todd Russell. In an order issued after the Dec. 23 hearing on the legal challenge, Russell agreed with opponents of the plan that the original description could be argumentative, confusing or misleading to voters.
The challenge was filed by Kevin Benson, representing Leonard Jackson who says the amendment wouldn’t eliminate gerrymandering since Republicans and Democrats would select all seven commissioners. Benson had argued there is nothing to guarantee any of the members would represent Nevada’s third largest group of voters — nonpartisans.
Russell ruled the original description doesn’t tell potential signers that it could effectively double the cost of reapportionment by requiring the commission to draw new legislative districts in 2023 — undoing the district maps created just two years earlier by the 2021 Legislature.
Russell also agreed that the original description didn’t adequately explain what is meant by “independent” members of the commission or what is meant by “fair and competitive” senate, assembly and congressional districts. Those phrases were removed from the 200 word description.
Russell amended the description, which is intended to give petition signers enough information to determine what it would do in plain English, to cure those deficiencies. That cleared the way for backers of the so-called “Fair Maps Nevada” group to re-file their petition and begin collecting signatures to get it on the ballot.
To qualify for the ballot, organizers must collect signatures of at least 10 percent of voters who voted in the last election — 997,598 — with at least 24,400 in each of Nevada’s four congressional districts by June 16.
The measure would have to pass twice — this year and again in 2022 — to become law. State legislative and U.S. congressional voting districts could then be redrawn in 2023.