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Democrats show congressional district map

MICHELLE RINDELS
Associated Press

Legislative Democratic leaders on Thursday proposed redrawing Nevada’s congressional voting districts to create three solid Democrat majority districts and one slightly Republican one.

The plan unveiled in Carson City comes a week after Republicans released a very different proposal to create two Democratic-leaning districts and two competitive districts – one leaning Democratic in voter registration and one tilting Republican.

“There’s a lot of disparity,” said Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, after seeing the Democrats’ map. “And our time is short.”

The competing plans set the stage for a crucial political battle over how to carve out a new 4th U.S. Congress district from the existing three and fix representational imbalances created by rapid growth in the Silver State during the last decade.

While the legislative session ends June 6, both sides question whether they’ll reach an agreement by then.

The lines the Democrats have drawn would keep Rep. Shelley Berkley’s 1st District seat in and around Las Vegas solidly Democratic, with a 48.2 percent to 30.7 percent voter registration edge.

In the Republican proposal already submitted, the district would retain a Democratic advantage of 45.5 percent to 32 percent.

Both parties also appear willing to let the 2nd District now held by Rep. Dean Heller keep its GOP registration edge. Democrats are proposing a 42.6 percent to 35.5 percent split. Republicans are proposing 42.8 percent to 35.7 percent.

With Heller due to be sworn in to the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by John Ensign, the vast statewide district covering most of northern and rural Nevada will be up for grabs in a September special election.

The parties appear headed for a showdown over GOP Rep. Joe Heck’s 3rd District.

Democrats are proposing a 44.6 percent Democratic to 32.9 percent Republican split. Republicans are proposing a 41.8 percent GOP to 37.5 percent Democratic margin, with the district ballooning in land mass to stretch from southern Nevada to east-west U.S. 50 across the state and parts of Douglas County near Lake Tahoe.

Under the Republicans’ plan, the new 4th District in southern Nevada would be Democratic by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, with a population more than 50 percent Hispanic.

Democrats said Thursday they want to make the district 43.6 percent Democratic and 33.5 percent Republican by registration.

The percentages include both active voter registrations and inactive ones, in which mail is returned and the registrant may have moved. Nevada counts 1.3 million registered voters, including 562,000 Democrats and 460,000 Republicans.

But raw registration percentages alone don’t paint the full picture. While districts are equal in population, not all residents are old enough to vote. Some groups turn out to the polls in higher numbers than others.

Ethnicity is another key. Drafters must consider whether they are splitting up minorities over too many districts, thus diluting their power to elect a candidate, or “packing” them in a single district where they will easily elect a candidate but not spread their influence over multiple districts.

Representatives from minority groups spoke Thursday about how the map could potentially amplify or squelch their voice.

“We deserve a map that speaks to our community’s growing political influence throughout the State of Nevada,” said Artie Blanco of Mi Familia Vota, a Hispanic voter advocacy group.

State lawmakers draw new voting boundaries every 10 years based on updated U.S. Census data. Nevada grew 35 percent in the past decade, earning the fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Both parties also submitted plans last week for redrawing Nevada’s state Senate and Assembly districts.

The stakes could be high, and the two parties are expected to fight hard for what could amount to a 10-year voter registration advantage over the other.

Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and maintain the upper hand when a plan comes up for a vote.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has promised to veto any map that he doesn’t believe is fair.