Voter district disparity sparks future reapportionment talk
Voter rolls show Nevada congressional and legislative districts vary wildly and may be redrawn before the 2011 Census.
More than 900,000 Nevada residents are now registered to vote. The number increased 3,493 in the two months since the end of August with county clerks reporting a total of 902,803 on their rolls.
But while the number of Republicans and Democrats is nearly equal, there are huge disparities between the number of voters registered in Nevada’s congressional and legislative districts.
Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said Nevada should consider redoing it’s reapportionment maps in the next session rather than waiting until it must be done in 2011.
“It was done badly,” he said. “It was done for political advantage and the result is you’re leaving some people not well represented.”
“I’d like to see us redistrict,” he said.
According to figures released Wednesday by the Secretary of State’s office, Congressional District 1 represented by Democrat Shelley Berkley has almost 100,000 fewer registered voters than the other two districts – 239,782 compared to 332,357 for Jon Porter and 330,564 for Jim Gibbons – both Republicans.
State Senate districts range all the way from 18,749 registered in Democrat Maggie Carlton’s Clark 2 to 70,321 in Republican Dennis Nolan’s Clark 9. There are also two large districts with two senators apiece in Clark County – Clark 5 represented by Republicans Sandra Tiffany and Ann O’Connell with 104,441 and Clark 7 represented by Democrats Dina Titus and Terry Care with 69,194 registered.
The range is equally dramatic in the Assembly where districts range in size from Democrat Bob McCleary’s 7,970 voters in District 11 to 45,910 in David Brown’s District 22 and 40,297 in Chad Christensen’s District 13. Brown and Christensen are Republicans.
Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, has fewer than 17,000 registered in his district. He said the populations of his, McCleary’s and other “inner city” districts are much closer than the voter registration numbers. He pointed out reapportionment is based on population, not registration.
He said those districts were difficult to expand in reapportionment because they are completely surrounded by districts and homes of other lawmakers.
Protection of incumbents is allowed under federal laws governing reapportionment and, during the 2001 session, Arberry said several maps expanding inner city districts resulted in two incumbents in one district.
He said they are in the process of putting together a program to try increase voter registration.
“In our area a lot of voters have lost their confidence in elected officials,” he said. “That’s why we’re in the process of putting together a team to do a massive voter registration drive.”
He rejected the idea of opening up reapportionment again.
“No. It’s done. There’s always hindsight, but I don’t feel we need go in and try fix it now because I have a low amount of registered voters. I’ve got 50,000 people in my district.”
Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, Nolan and Brown could not be reached for comment.
In the Carson City area, Sen. Mark Amodei’s Capital District has 40,715 registered while Assemblyman Ron Knecht’s District 40 seat has 18,821, Lynn Hettrick in District 39 has 24,839 and Tom Grady in District 38 has 24,840 voters on the rolls. All are Republicans.
There are 373,238 Republicans and 365,090 Democrats registered in Nevada. Since the next largest party is the Independent American with 17,285 and all other parties total just 10,619, the winner in any election is pretty much decided by the state’s 136,571 non-partisan voters.
Western Nevada remains solidly Republican in registration with the biggest margin in Douglas where more than twice as many register as Republicans than Democrats – 11,285 to 5,006 out of the 19,170 registered.
In Carson City, there are 10,659 Republicans registered compared to 6,984 Democrats and 20,706 total voters on the rolls. In Lyon: 8,721 Republicans and 5,692 Democrats out of 17,814 voters. The proportion is about the same in Storey County – 1,004 Republicans to 666 Democrats out of 2,000 registered.
The GOP enjoys a registration advantage in Washoe as well with 85,570 to 68,359 out of 190,144 registered.
In fact Republicans outnumber Democrats in all but three of Nevada’s 17 counties – Clark, Mineral and White Pine. But the nearly 33,000 Democratic advantage in Clark cuts the total GOP lead to just 8,148.