Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, on Wednesday introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would put the control over reapportionment in the hands of an independent redistricting commission.
Nevada’s Constitution gives that power to the Legislature to draw boundaries for legislative districts and for Nevada’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The proposed amendment says the powers of the commission are functions not subject to the control or approval of the Legislature.
Lawmakers 10 years ago failed to get the job done and ended up turning the job over to District Judge Todd Russell and Carson City Clerk recorder Alan Glover along with several veteran legislative staff.
Advocates for redistricting commissions have argued an independent body to draw those maps would end the perennial complaints that whichever party is in charge is guilty of gerrymandering the districts to unfairly disadvantage the minority party.
Senate Joint Resolution 9 by Kieckhefer would put the job in the hands of a seven-member commission made up of registered eligible voters in Nevada. The Senate Majority Leader, Minority Leader and Assembly Speaker and Minority Leader would each appoint one member to the commission.
Those members would then appoint the remaining three members who could not be registered or affiliated with either major party for the previous four years. If any of those three are registered with a party, there can’t be more than one in any given party.
In addition, none of those three commissioners can be a registered lobbyist, candidate or partisan office holder, a paid consultant or employee of a partisan elected official, or of a political action committee sponsored by a political party. In addition, legislative and executive branch state workers are excluded. But commissioners could be part of the judicial branch, members of the armed forces or university system employees.
Close relatives of those disqualified from the commission are also barred.
The proposed amendment says that all meetings of the commission must be open to the public as are its records and the public given every opportunity to participate.
The commission would be required to draw districts with an approximately equal number of inhabitants that are geographically contiguous and compact. Districts can’t result in abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities, can’t unduly advantage or disadvantage a political party and should reflect county, city and township boundaries to the extent possible without dividing communities of interest.
It also mandates districts be politically competitive to the extent possible with a reasonable potential for different parties to win a seat.
The amendment must be approved in identical form by two consecutive legislative sessions and then by the voters to become part of the constitution.
SJR9 was referred to the Legislative Operations and Elections Committee for review.