CARSON CITY – State legislative Democrats will reveal their proposed maps for the political boundaries of Nevada’s Assembly and Senate districts at 5 p.m. today.
The unveiling of the maps represents the first public look at what promises to be a contentious debate about the state’s political districts, which the Legislature is required to alter every 10 years following the release of U.S. Census data.
Sen.David Parks, D-Las Vegas, has earlier said that the first maps will most likely show districts that reflect the Legislature’s current size of 21 Senators and 42 Assembly members.
Senate and Assembly Republicans have not yet said whether they will join Democratic leadership in presenting proposed redistricting maps on Thursday.
The Legislature has a number of challenges in drawing political boundaries of Assembly and Senate districts:
- Growth in the southern part of the state means current districts are imbalanced and one northern Senate seat and one or two northern Assembly seats will become southern seats. This means some northern incumbents will no longer have a district to represent.
- The Legislature must decide what to do with state’s two dual-districts, which Parks and others have earlier said will likely go extinct with this round of redistricting.
- The Legislature must consider protecting “communities of interest” when drawing districts. This could prevent rural Nevadans from suddenly being thrown in the same district as urban Nevadans, or keeping a distinct downtown community separate from a suburban community.
- The state’s Assembly and Senate seats also have wide disparities in population, which Assembly Republicans have said resulted from unfair maps the Legislature approved in 2001.
These challenges are compounded by the split between a Democratic-controlled Legislature and a Republican governor. Both will likely have to agree on the proposal to pass the redistricting bill.
Members of both political parties want the maps to be fair, but there may be little agreement on actual proposals. Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he will veto any plan that is not “fair.”
So a showdown between a Republican executive and a Democratic-controlled Legislature could throw the matter into the courts. Some legislators think this is an inevitability.
“The court will be the ultimate decider,” Settelmeyer said.
Others contend that they can work out a compromise.
“You go out there, there’s fights, there’s fireworks … but at the end of the day why would politicians put their fate in seven justices [of Nevada's Supreme Court],” said Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.
The Legislature will also have to draw new Congressional districts.
Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said he expects the Legislature to unveil and debate proposed Congressional maps sometime next week. Those maps will reflect the addition of a fourth Congressional district added to Nevada due to population growth during the past decade.
At today’s presentation, legislators do not expect to debate the proposals. Legislative staff plan to present and explain the maps, after which Senate and Assembly committees will debate the merits and faults of each plan.