Nevada picks up fourth Congressional seat
Nevada will have four seats in the House of Representa-tives after the next election – likely one in Northern Nevada and three in the south.
Census figures released Tuesday show Nevada’s total population is 2.7 million, qualifying the state for an additional member of Congress.
The Nevada Legislature, where both houses are controlled by Democrats, draws the boundaries of the congressional districts. In Nevada, Congressional boundaries must be drawn with as equal populations as possible. Each of the four districts must have about 677,000 people in it.
Since just over 71 percent of the state’s population is in Clark County, the south will control three of the seats.
Sens. Harry Reid, Democrat, and John Ensign, Republican, both applauded the announcement. Reid said it will help ensure Nevada gets its fair share of resources. Ensign said it will help make sure the state’s voices are heard in Washington.
But Ensign sounded a partisan worry as well: “I hope that when the boundaries of this new district are drawn, it is done in a way that best benefits Nevadans, not a political party.”
Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval echoed Ensign’s concern, saying he hopes the process “will proceed in an orderly manner on behalf of the voters and not politics.”
“I plan to work with both the Assembly and the Senate to ensure the process is fair and balanced,” he said.
Their concern is that southern lawmakers could draw the boundaries to make southern residents the majority in all four districts.
Nevada’s Democratic-led legislature is considering two mapping possibilities. One proposal would continue to group all communities outside of Clark Clark in a heavily Republican district, while dividing Las Vegas into three equal slices. A second option would cut the state vertically into four districts that each include northern and southern communities.
“The political power shift is now complete and it resides in Clark County,” said Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno. “The government has to reflect the voices of the people where they live.”
Nevada’s population grew 35 percent since the 2000 census, faster than any other state in the nation, according to Secretary of State Ross Miller. But since the recession hit in 2007, for the first time in recent history Nevada has seen its population decline, losing nearly 100,000 residents in the past two years.
Miller said the result of the census was a good civics lesson on the importance of participating in the decennial count because, if just a few less people had been counted, Nevada wouldn’t have gotten the fourth seat in the House.
In addition to gaining a seat in the House, the announcement increases the state’s number of presidential electors to six – the total number of representatives Nevada has in the Congress.
Nevada had just one seat – the minimum for any state – until the 1980 census when it qualified for a second representative. The total grew to three after the 2000 census.
The U.S. House of Representatives is reapportioned every census to divide its seats among the 50 states. The total number of representatives remains the same at 435.
Altogether, eight states added representatives and nine states lost representatives, mostly through the northeast corridor and the Midwest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.