Jim Hartman: Nevada’s appalling gerrymander

Jim Hartman

Jim Hartman
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That’s Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer’s (R-Gardnerville) one word description of the corrupted political process by which Democrats assured one-party rule in Nevada for at least the next decade.
On Nov. 16, the Nevada Legislature approved new legislative and congressional district maps. Gov. Steve Sisolak called the Legislature into special session less than 96 hours earlier, on Friday afternoon, Nov. 12.
The special session was announced by Sisolak on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) to begin the following day.
Hearings were scheduled for that holiday weekend when many people were unavailable. A classic tactic was employed: hearings timed to avoid full media scrutiny and public attention.
Battle Born Progress Executive Director Annette Magnus observed: “This isn’t a user error, it’s a system failure. How many Nevadans were prevented from having their voices heard.”
Legislative Democrats used high tech tools to ram through an old fashion outrageous partisan gerrymander.
Democrats used gerrymandering to establish unfair political advantage. They manipulated boundaries of congressional and legislative districts against Republicans. They used the gerrymander to dilute the voting power of specific demographic groups and divide communities of interest.
Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (R-Reno) noted that despite strong growth in Hispanic, African-American and Asian populations in Nevada over the past decade, the Democrats’ maps had one fewer Hispanic, one fewer black and one fewer Asian districts.
Democrats make up 34 percent of the voting population in Nevada, but they railroaded through legislative redistricting maps that guarantee them over 70 percent of congressional and state legislative seats.
According to experts at the Princeton Gerrymander Project, the adopted maps will result in Democrats winning three of Nevada’s four House seats. Democrats are guaranteed to win 15 of 21 state Senate seats, and 29 of 42 Assembly seats.
The Princeton project experts found none of the four Nevada congressional districts to be competitive, and only five Assembly districts and three Senate districts are competitive.
If Democrats win all those seats they will be substantially above the two-thirds supermajority to approve tax increases.
Republicans make up 30 percent of Nevada voters. A 4 percent Democrat voter registration advantage should not translate into supermajorites in both legislative chambers.
Both progressives and Republican lawmakers teamed up in strong criticism of the new congressional and legislative districts. Advocates for minority communities joined the chorus of critics.
With almost no testimony in support of the bill and dozens of opponents, one Assembly Republican described the bill (SB 1) as “universally disliked.”
The gerrymander targets state Sen. Heidi Gansert (R-Reno) for defeat in 2024, by giving her district a major infusion of downtown Reno Democrats. A former GOP Assembly leader, Gansert fended off strong Democratic challenges in the past.
Assemblywoman Tolles’ Reno district was also changed to a small, liberal leaning crescent of southwest Reno suburbs. Tolles will not seek re-election in 2022.
Rural Nevada Republican legislators blasted the Democrats’ gerrymander. Assembly District 33 – currently represented by Assemblyman John Ellison – becomes the largest Assembly district in the U.S.
The vast district sprawls diagonally from Jackpot in the north all the way south to Pahrump, a distance of 500 miles, bordering California, Utah and Idaho and encompassing parts of Elko, White Pine, Eureka, Lincoln and Nye counties.
Assembly District 40 – currently represented by Assemblyman PK O’Neill – will consist of all of Carson City, Storey County and the eastern edge of Washoe County and Reno up to Sparks.
Assembly District 39 – currently represented by Assemblyman Jim Wheeler – will consist of all Douglas County and a portion of Lyon County including Dayton, and parts of Stagecoach and Silver Springs.
Sisolak’s praise of “a thoughtful, efficient and productive” special session raised the ire of angry Republicans.
In the future, Nevada needs an impartial commission or set of special masters as was done in 2011 to ensure fair representation in reapportionment.
Jim Hartman is an attorney in Genoa. E-mail lawdocman1@aol.com 


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