First step in long reapportionment battle begins | NevadaAppeal.com

First step in long reapportionment battle begins

STEVE RANSON
Nevada Appeal News Service

FALLON – The first step in the long process of reapportionment and redistricting Nevada’s political boundaries began with a public meeting in Fallon on Thursday before a joint meeting of Senate and Assembly Committees on Legislative Operations and Elections.

The committee is seeking public input into the process and will conduct future meetings in Las Vegas and Reno.

Prior to the public commenting on reapportionment at the Fallon Convention Center, Michael J. Stewart, supervising principal research analyst from the Legislative Counsel Bureau’s Research Division gave an overview on the process and what the difference is between reapportionment and redistricting.

Following the 2010 federal Census, Stewart said state Legislatures must then reapportion and redistrict boundaries for the House of Representatives, State Senate, Assembly, Board of Regents and the State Board of Education.

However, Stewart said Nevada must undertake redistricting because the state gets to add another member to the House of Representatives.

“The most important challenge you will have to deal with,” he told lawmakers, “is dealing with population growth.”

He said between 1990-2010, Nevada added 1.5 million residents with a little less than half occurring during the last decade. Washoe County grew about 24 percent, and Stewart said the other counties or rurals saw a growth of 125.9 percent.

Nevada last added a seat to the House in 2001. Stewart said two congressional seats are within Clark County and one, District 2, includes a portion of Clark County and the rest of Nevada. Based on the 2000 Census, each district represents about 666,086 residents.

Kathy Steinle, GIS specialist with the LCB’s Information Technology Services Unit, also said redistricting can be a daunting task.

“When we build a district, our goal is to give them equal population with reasonable deviation,” she pointed out.

Residents in rural Nevada said they fear for a lack of representation when the new district lines are drawn.

“I am concerned every rural county will only have one Senate and two Assembly districts and not have any say,” said James Smack, chairman of the Churchill County Central Republican Committee. “I am also concerned to maintain the integrity of the rurals and Washoe County for District 2.”

Joe Dahl, a concerned resident, said lawmakers should not mix urban and rural representation. His preference would have only one representative representing the “Cow Counties” rather than having two legislators representing both urban and rural districts.

John O’Connor, who ran unsuccessfully for Assembly District 35 in 2010, said several rural counties could be combined, such as Lyon, Churchill and Storey.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said meetings like the one held in Fallon are important for the public. He said he hopes the committee can later show the Fallon attendees the redistricting maps when they are drawn and then receive feedback before approval.

After the meeting, State Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, the Senate minority leader, said the population numbers for each district will not let legislators be sympathetic, and he doesn’t think increasing the number of representatives in the Assembly and Senate to give the rural counties more representation will be approved.

“I don’t think there is an appetite to increase legislators,” he said.

Smack strongly feels the overall process will be “ugly.”

“I am concerned for the rural counties,” he reiterated.