Hearings begin on Nevada redistricting
(AP) – The sticky business of redrawing Nevada’s voting districts began Thursday with Senate and Assembly committees holding a joint hearing on the process.
The politically-charged exercise to balance districts based on 2010 Census figures comes as Nevada gains a fourth House seat and jockeying begins to replace Republican U.S. Sen. John Ensign, who announced this week he will not seek re-election.
Thursday’s hearing before the joint Legislative Affairs and Election committees, however, was devoid of any drama that will play out in the political arenas in the months ahead.
Lawmakers were briefed on target population numbers for congressional and state districts, and lectured on criteria they must meet when re-drawing districts so not to run afoul of the law.
Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, said each of Nevada’s four congressional districts should have roughly 675,000 people. In state districts, he said lawmakers should aim for 64,300 per Assembly district and 128,600 per Senate district.
Creating the fourth congressional district will come from carving up Nevada’s other three. Of those, Census figures show District 3, held by newly elected Republican Rep. Joe Heck, is the most out of whack population wise, with nearly 370,000 more people than the target level.
In state legislative districts, freshman Republican Sen. Elizabeth Halseth’s Las Vegas district exceeds the so-called “ideal population” target by 225,000, or 175 percent, according to the data. In the Assembly, the districts held by Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, and Lynn Stewart, D-Henderson, are the most out of balance, by 298 percent and 246 percent respectively.
Levitt briefed the committees on federal law and the Voting Rights Act, and said when considering different population segments, “there’s no problem considering race or ethnicity, as long as it doesn’t predominate” how lines are drawn.
With 72 percent of the state’s population residing in southern Nevada’s Clark County, the reapportionment will shift more seats from the rural north unless lawmakers decide to expand the size of the Legislature that now has 42 Assembly and 21 Senate seats.