GOP says new maps cheat incumbents | NevadaAppeal.com

GOP says new maps cheat incumbents

While other parties in the case were generally OK with the congressional and legislative district maps drawn by a team of “special masters,” the Republican Party’s legal brief charges that the maps put one incumbent Republican senator at a severe disadvantage and protect a Democrat who they say can be defeated.

The 13-page brief, with maps and other materials attached, was filed about two hours after the 5 p.m. deadline Monday, but Carson District Judge Todd Russell accepted them.

GOP Lawyer Mark Hutchison said those maps create districts for Sens. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, that “will yield an extremely partisan result.”

Halseth’s district, he argued, moves from less than 3 percent in favor of Democrats to “a whopping 8.94 point disadvantage.”

Copening’s district, the brief says, goes from a 1.2 percent GOP disadvantage to 8.9 percent.

“In short, the Special Masters’ plans take what once were two competitive seats and turn them strongly Democratic and wholly non-competitive.”

He also charged that Sen. Barbara Cegavske’s district is legally flawed because Russell ordered the special masters to draw districts “with a goal that the borders are to be contiguous and not irregularly shaped by arbitrary distortions.”

Throughout, the brief argues for the Republican maps released during the 2011 legislative session, saying adoption of those maps would cure the problems in those districts.

But Hutchison and the GOP don’t even discuss what rural Republicans say are the biggest problems with the maps before the court – the elimination of Sen. Mike McGinness’ rural seat, which resulted in one rural Senate seat getting a big chunk of urban Washoe County and the other getting a piece of urban Clark County.

“The maps discriminate against the rural counties,” said Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said everyone expected Reno Republican Greg Brower’s seat to be eliminated, not McGinness’.

“How come Washoe County is entitled to four senators?” he asked.

Goicoechea, who is considering a run for one of those seats, said it’s a huge district, stretching from the northeast corner of the state to the southern tip.

“Senate 19 now starts at Jackpot and goes to Primm,” he said. “You cannot draw a longer straight line in this state.”

That issue was raised by the Eureka County Commission as well as former Elko Assemblyman John Carpenter in letters sent Monday to Russell. Carpenter said the lines put rural residents at risk of not having a rural state senator, since Reno and Las Vegas area residents could win those seats.

Russell will hear arguments in the case Thursday.