Deadline passes for new map arguments
Monday was the deadline for parties in the redistricting case to file their arguments for or against the proposed maps, but as of 5 p.m., when the district court clerk’s office closed, the Republican Party’s brief was nowhere to be seen.
The Democrats, secretary of state’s office and intervenor Alex Garza all managed to meet the set by Carson District Judge Todd Russell.
Neither the secretary of state’s office nor the Democratic Party raised major objections to the maps drawn by the special masters appointed by Russell.
The secretary of state’s brief by Deputy Attorney General Kevin Benson simply asks for clarifications on several points in the report submitted to the judge. Benson points out, for example, that the report says no minority group is large enough to constitute a majority in a congressional district but doesn’t say which population measure was used – voting age population, total population or citizen voting age population.
He raised several other similar issues, asking the masters clarify what they did in each case and the weight they gave to such things as the balance of party registration in Nevada.
Democrats made it clear they preferred their plan, which had been vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
“That said, the facts the masters found are fully supported by the evidence and the masters strictly adhered to the constitutional population equality requirements and carefully followed the traditional redistricting principles of drawing compact and contiguous districts, respecting political subdivision boundaries, preserving communities of interest and nesting Assembly districts within Senate districts,” their brief stated. “Given that revising the masters’ work anywhere will inevitably disrupt the balance the masters struck in achieving these competing goals, Plaintiffs currently offer no substantive objections to the masters’ proposal.”
The brief does, however, point out one technical error in the Assembly maps caused by the fact that the masters had an old address for Democrat William Horne. When his actual address is used, he and Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, also a Democrat, end up in the same district – the only instance where two incumbents would be running against each other. The brief says, however, that can be easily remedied by a minor change in the maps.
Despite the lack of Republican Party briefs, there were two letters submitted from the northern, rural officials expressing what is expected to be a key objection by the GOP. One state Senate district in the north contains a chunk of urban Las Vegas. The other contains a chunk of Washoe County.
The Eureka County Commission sent a one-page letter objecting to the lines for the state Senate district including Eureka County, saying with part of urban Clark County in its lines, the plan “dilutes rural representation.”
“If rural areas of this great state no longer receive dedicated representation, a vital aspect and viewpoint to the issues facing Nevada will be lost,” the letter says.
Commission Chairman Leonard Florenzi and commissioners Mike Page and J.P. Ithurralde asked the court to consider different lines so that rural representation could “remain whole.”
The other letter was from Elko Republican John Carpenter, a 24-year veteran of the Assembly, who made the same argument against including part of the Las Vegas area and Mount Charleston as well as Pahrump in that state Senate district.
“My greatest fear is that, someday, the northern rural counties, the cow counties, would be represented by a senator from southern Nevada,” he said. “The needs and economics of Southern and Northern Nevada are as different as night and day.”
He also objected to the lines for the other northern rural Senate district.
“Lander, Humboldt and Pershing County are going to be put into a district that will be controlled by the voters in northern Washoe County, namely North Valley and Sparks.”
Carpenter argued that the rural parts of those counties should be put together with Elko, White Pine, Lincoln, Churchill and the northern half of Nye County and made into a Senate district along with part of rural northern Washoe.
“We are a community of interest which needs to be recognized and represented by one of our own,” he concluded.
Garza agreed with the special masters that there is no good way to draw a congressional districts in which Hispanics of voting age make up more than half the population and, therefore, has no particular objections to the proposed congressional districts.
In the maps drawn by the special masters, one of four districts is 43 percent Hispanic.
But he objected to the legislative district maps proposed by the special masters.
“Despite the enormous increase in the Hispanic population over the last decade – such that one of every four Nevadans is Hispanic – the masters did not create a single additional majority-minority district,” he argued. “Not one.”
As such, he argues, the proposed maps split communities of interest and dilute the Hispanic vote in southern Nevada.
Russell has set a Thursday hearing in Carson District Court to hear arguments in the case.