Redistricting: 2 parties, 2 philosophies
Republicans, Democrats and Nevada’s secretary of state took very different approaches in recommending who should be named special masters to draw legislative and congressional districts for the coming decade.
In documents filed late Wednesday in Carson District Court, Democrats and Secretary of State Ross Miller’s office called on Judge Todd Russell to name mostly Nevada political veterans to do the work.
The Republican Party, in contrast, presented a list that included out-of-state academics and consultants and nationally known experts with extensive experience and credentials in redistricting.
The Las Vegas Valley League of Women Voters also filed a brief Wednesday, saying that while it was their intention “to take no further active part in this case,” they still wanted to comment. They presented a list of four Las Vegas residents for consideration.
Only one of the names suggested by Russell in the July 12 hearing appeared on any of the lists submitted to the court — Carson City Clerk/Recorder Alan Glover appears on Miller’s proposed list. Russell had named Glover as a potential master representing rural election officials to serve with Washoe Registrar of Voters Dan Burk and Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax. He said his goal was to de-politicize the process as much as possible and put it in the hands of the experts.
“I don’t want anybody with a political agenda, to be honest,” Russell said. “I’m more interested in people who know the demographics, voter demographics, than the legal issues.”
He said he would resolve the legal issues in the case.
Miller’s list is topped by veteran Nevada political figures Democrat Richard Bryan — a former legislator, attorney general, governor and U.S. senator — and Republican Bill Raggio, who, as a leader in the Nevada Senate, guided the redistricting process in 1981, 1991 and 2001.
Bryan also tops the Democratic Party list, joined by former UNR President Joe Crowley and ex-Secretary of State and Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa.
Also in the top of that list is professor Bruce Cain of the University of California at Berkeley, who was a special master in Arizona’s redistricting process.
By contrast, the GOP list is led by Doug Johnson of Claremont McKenna College, who has consulted on an number of redistricting projects for states including Florida, Arizona and California. The GOP also recommends Gary King of Harvard, Bernard Grofman of UC-Irvine, also a consultant in numerous redistricting cases, and Nathaniel Persily of Columbia Law School. Persily also appears in the Democrats’ proposal.
While the secretary of state’s filing confined itself to recommending potential masters, the two parties included recommendations on the process to be followed and the handling of legal issues, among other subjects. Both sides called for including members who are experienced in the nuts and bolts of redistricting. And both said the candidates should not be limited to Nevadans since, according to the Democratic brief, “there are a number of neutral, experienced professionals from across the country who may be able to bring a helpful perspective to Nevada redistricting.”
Both sides called on Russell to resolve legal issues — in particular, how to handle Voting Rights Act prohibitions on the “dilution” of minority voting. Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, vetoed two sets of Democratic maps, saying they spread Hispanic voters too thinly across districts, reducing their chances of winning seats.
Democrats say the opposite would constitute “packing” those voters into a small number districts, increasing their chances of winning those few seats but violating their rights by effectively preventing them from winning in neighboring districts.
Bradley Schrager, representing the Democrats, argued that if those maps comply with the Voting Rights Act, the starting point should be the maps vetoed by Sandoval.
Republican lawyer Mark Hutchison, however, argued that those maps are an inappropriate place to start since they were never enacted into law. He said the 2001 maps are the last set of districts to become law and should be the base to start the process from.
Other legal issues include how stringent population equality should be in drawing both congressional and legislative districts.
“The Supreme Court has been exceedingly clear in requiring lower courts to balance population among congressional districts with precision,” the GOP brief argues.
While there is more flexibility in handling legislative districts, both parties again urged they be “substantially equal” in population.
They also agreed districts should be compact and contiguous, not irregularly shaped and disjointed, and that county lines, political subdivisions and “communities of interest” should be preserved. Democrats also urged that the masters attempt to “nest” two Assembly districts within the boundaries of each state Senate district.
Both briefs urged fair representation for the major parties on the panel of masters.
Finally, both indicated they believe that the masters will need expert witnesses to help with the process as well as technical staff to actually draw the maps.
The new districts must effectively be in place by March 5, when filing for congressional, Assembly and Senate candidates opens.
Russell is expected to set another hearing to iron out how to proceed in the near future. Until he has a chance to review the briefs, Schrager said, the two sides don’t want to comment on the differences between the proposals.