Lawmakers were warned Wednesday that delays in getting Census data because of the coronavirus may land Nevada in legal trouble over reapportionment.
Asher Killian of the legislative legal division said the state will likely have no hard Census numbers until after the end of the 2021 Legislature.
“If the Legislature does not enact a new redistricting plan prior to the 2022 elections, there is a significant risk a court will step in and mandate a session,” he told the legislative committee preparing for redistricting.
In addition, he said the Congress and the U.S. Constitution would probably not allow the state to delay drawing new congressional districts until the 2023 Legislative session. He said the courts would likely rule unconstitutional.
“Waiting until 2023 would allow the 2022 elections to be held under an unconstitutional redistricting plan,” Killian said.
Every 10 years, lawmakers are required to draw new district boundaries for the state’s congressional districts, state Senate and Assembly seats and the Board of Regents.
The Nevada Constitution does not require the legislature to redistrict until after receipt of the Census data. Nor does it mandate the use of traditional districting principles. If those principles are not used, the state could be open to legal challenges based on the constitution and Supreme Court mandates stemming from the 1965 Voter Rights Act.
There is some wiggle room in drawing legislative and Board of Regent districts. They must generally be within 10 percent of each other.
But lawmakers were told the state’s four Congressional districts must pretty much each have exactly the same number of residents.
Because of the impact of the virus on the Decennial Census process, Census officials have warned the state they may not get data until well after the 2021 legislative session adjourns.
Killian did say that much of the redistricting work can be done ahead of time, which will greatly reduce the time and money a special session would cost the state.