Nevada high court asked to takeover redistricting
LAS VEGAS – Secretary of State Ross Miller has asked the Nevada Supreme Court to take action in an ongoing legal battle that will decide voting boundaries for the next decade, saying a district court judge overseeing the lawsuit has “impermissibly abdicated” his duty to resolve the legal questions driving the case.
Miller filed an emergency petition late Monday that accused District Court Judge James Russell of refusing to define what criteria should be used to draw the districts. Miller urged the high court to force the lower court to answer those questions.
Russell has appointed a three-member panel to draw the lines that will likely determine state Assembly, Senate and U.S. House voting districts through 2022. But he never set firm guidelines on how the panel should move forward.
Miller said the confusion means Russell’s final ruling will likely be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, a delay that could disrupt the 2012 elections. Miller declined to explain why he filed the petition.
The legal battle centers on whether Nevada’s growing Hispanic population should be crammed into one House district that would allow them to elect a candidate of their choosing under the federal Voting Rights Act. Republicans argue Hispanics will have a greater voice if they are banded together, while Democrats argue Hispanics should not be segregated because they have had success electing Hispanic candidates. Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is Hispanic, but Hispanics largely voted for his Democratic rival last year.
Russell also failed to define “representational fairness,” Miller said.
Russell has ordered the three court masters to hold two public hearings in Las Vegas and Carson City next week, and then submit maps to the court by Oct. 21. Russell has said he could approve the voting boundaries by Nov. 16.
“I have and will continue to make this matter a priority in light of the timing issues involved,” Russell wrote in a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Saitta last month.