Posts Tagged ‘special masters’

Gov. Sandoval Says He Is Pleased With New Political Maps, Does Not Anticipate An Appeal

By Sean Whaley | 3:12 pm November 8th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he is pleased with the political boundaries created by a court-appointed panel of special masters, and does not anticipate a legal challenge to the new lines drawn for the 63 legislative and four congressional districts for the 2012 general election.

“I want to compliment the masters and Judge (James Todd) Russell, I think they did a great job,” he said. “My understanding is none of the parties are going to appeal the decision. And I know there is a certain amount of time that will have to pass before that appellate deadline comes, but no, me personally, I am very happy and satisfied with the result.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau.

Russell, a Carson City District judge who handled the redistricting process when Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature could not reach agreement, signed off on the new boundaries on Oct. 27 after making a few minor adjustments to the maps submitted by the special masters he appointed to draw the new political lines.

Attorneys for both the Democrat and Republican parties have thus far indicated they do not plan to challenge the maps, which had to be redrawn to reflect population shifts identified in the 2010 census.

There is a 30-day window for an appeal to be filed with the Nevada Supreme Court to challenge the maps.

The Supreme Court, in an order issued late Friday, also cancelled an oral argument to consider concerns raised by Secretary of State Ross Miller about Russell’s decisions regarding the redistricting process, saying any issues can be raised in an appeal.

The congressional maps, which include a new fourth seat due to Nevada’s population growth over the past decade compared to other states, has a central urban Las Vegas District 1 that is 42.8 percent Hispanic.

Previously announced candidates for the new congressional districts wasted no time in declaring their intentions to run, and in which districts as approved by Russell.

Sandoval vetoed two Democrat-sponsored redistricting plans passed in the 2011 legislative session. He had previously rejected any call for a special legislative session to handle the redistricting dispute, saying he had confidence in the courts to resolve the impasse.


Audio clip:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he is happy with the new redistricting maps:

110811Sandoval :20 with the result.”

Special Masters File Report, Maps, With Carson Judge – Propose Urban Las Vegas Congressional District

By Sean Whaley | 5:35 pm October 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The three special masters appointed by Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell to redraw Nevada’s political boundaries wasted no time on the charge, filing their report and proposed maps with the court today.

The proposed maps show that the masters opted to draw a congressional district for urban Las Vegas, an area with a high Hispanic population.

Attorneys for the Republican Party wanted such a district. Attorneys for Democrats had proposed districts that divided this area up among three congressional districts. The district as drawn is 42.8 percent Hispanic.

The proposed boundaries for urban Congressional District 1 are sure to provoke strong reaction from Democrats.

In their report, the special masters – Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson – said: “The special masters in creating a map with four United States Congressional districts carefully considered the issues associated with treatment of minority groups. The Special Masters considered the facts presented, testimony, argument and the law as they understood it.

Special redistricting masters, from left, Bob Erickson, Thomas Sheets and Alan Glover. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“The Special Masters to the extent practicable have drawn the districts to avoid dividing groups of common social, economic, cultural, or language characteristics where it was not otherwise necessary to do so,” they said.

The special masters also released proposed maps for Nevada’s 63 legislative districts. The map for the state Senate reflects the shift of population south since the 2000 census. The maps include detail of the Las Vegas area.

The maps for the 42 Assembly districts shows a similar shift. The masters also provided detail of the proposed Las Vegas area Assembly districts.

In filing their report, the special masters noted that: “The state’s Supreme Court will likely ultimately determine legal, jurisdictional and procedural requirements and whether the work that has been done by the special masters is of assistance in seeking that redistricting issues were expediently considered.”

The panel wasted no time. Public hearings on the redistricting issue just concluded on Tuesday. The proposed maps were not due to Russell until Oct. 21. Russell indicated in a previous order he would decide by mid-November on whether to accept the maps as proposed or send them back for refinement. But a new order issued today says he will hear the matter on Oct. 27.

The Nevada Supreme Court is already involved in the redistricting controversy. It has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 14 on questions raised by Secretary of State Ross Miller on whether it is the responsibility of the Legislature to draw the political boundaries, not the courts.

Special Masters Begin Work On Drawing New Nevada Political Boundaries

By Sean Whaley | 3:02 pm October 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The business of drawing new political boundaries will now get under way by three court-appointed special masters following two days of public hearings on what Nevada’s legislative and congressional districts should look like for the next decade.

The clock is ticking.

The special masters, Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson, have 10 days to draw four congressional and 63 legislative districts based on the 2010 U.S. Census data as directed by Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell last month.

Special redistricting masters, from left, Bob Erickson, Thomas Sheets and Alan Glover, take public testimony today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Russell will receive the maps on Oct. 21 and release them to the public. By mid-November he will decide whether to accept them or send them back to the special masters for refinement.

All this is happening as the 2012 election season moves ever closer. A number of people have announced they are running for one of the four congressional seats even though there are no districts yet to run in.

The redistricting process outlined by Russell will continue even as the Nevada Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on the issue, which ended up in the courts after the Democrat-controlled Legislature failed to reach a compromise with Republicans on new district lines.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who vetoed two Democrat-sponsored redistricting bills in the 2011 legislative session, weighed in on the controversy again today when asked, saying there is no reason to call the Legislature back into session to approve new maps. On Monday he said he had not had any conversations with lawmakers about calling them back to deal with redistricting.

” There are no facts and circumstances at this time that would justify calling a special session,” he said.

Sandoval said today he has faith in the judicial system, and the process outlined by Russell, to resolve the impasse.

While the Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 14 on questions raised by Secretary of State Ross Miller, it did not stop the process set up by Russell to develop new maps. In his petition filed with the court, Miller argues the state constitution makes it clear that it is the responsibility of the Legislature to draw the political boundaries, not the courts.

Because the court refused to block the process outlined by Russell, the special masters heard public testimony Monday in Las Vegas and today in Carson City on how the maps should be drawn. Twenty-two speakers testified in Las Vegas. Only a handful participated in Carson City.

One major issue for the special masters is whether to draw an urban Las Vegas congressional district that would include much of the Hispanic community. Democrats in their proposed maps split the Hispanic vote among three congressional districts, while Republicans are advocating for creating a single district with a large percentage of Hispanic voters.

At the hearing today, Democrat Forrest Darby presented a new set of maps for the masters to consider, saying the Southern Nevada congressional districts included in the plan would allow either the Republicans or Democrats to win any or all of the three.

Democrat Forrest Darby testifies on his redistricting proposal today in Carson City. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“We really believe this is a fair map,” he said.

Darby said he has also petitioned Russell to reconsider his requirement that the four congressional seats have virtually no population deviation. A slight deviation would make for cleaner and more logical districts, he said.

“You cannot get down to one person,” Darby said. “If you do you will have horrible, ugly boundary lines, period.”

Also testifying was state Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, who recommended that the special masters look at Assembly Bill 570, the measure creating the 13 new political boundaries for the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, as a starting point to draw congressional and legislative districts. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously and was signed into law by Sandoval, he said.

“I voted for it. For me it preserved the communities of interest, it did not pack individuals, it also created a situation where the deviation was only 0.37 percent in the creation of those 13 districts,” Settelmeyer said.

State Sen. James Settelmeyer testifies at the redistricting public hearing today as former Assemblyman Bernie Anderson looks on. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Former Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, a Democrat from Sparks, said the special masters are qualified to address the issue, but that redistricting is not a responsibility of the court system.

“I am of the opinion, however, that you do not have the authority to do this,” he said. “And I believe it is a question of separation of powers. And my base view is I want to make sure that does get into the record. That this is a legislative issue and should be left to the Legislature to take care of.”

Sheets asked what the answer is to resolving the redistricting issue when the Legislature cannot agree.

“I guess we are an imperfect solution to this problem that seems to have no other resolution if you have intractable parties,” he said.


Audio clips:

Democrat Forrest Darby says Nevada’s congressional districts should have some deviation to make for cleaner lines:

101111Darby :26 what we did.”

State GOP Sen. James Settelmeyer says the special masters should look to the Board of Regents redistricting bill as a starting point:

101111Settelemyer :19 because of that.”

Former state Assemblyman Bernie Anderson says the courts have no authority over redistricting:

101111Anderson :19 take care of.”

Special Master Thomas Sheets says the panel is an imperfect solution to the impasse:

101111Sheets :07 have intractable parties.”


Carson Judge Russell Expected To Rule Quickly On Redistricting Guidelines, Sets Public Hearings For Oct. 10-11

By Sean Whaley | 3:14 pm September 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Racial gerrymandering, fracturing, packing, nesting – a three-hour hearing today in Carson City District Court over how to draw Nevada’s new political boundaries was full of arcane concepts and obscure terminology.

The much anticipated ruling from Judge James Todd Russell on guidelines for drawing those new districts will have major ramifications, however, for the state’s voters and its two major political parties.

The purpose of the hearing was to decide what factors a panel of three citizens must consider when drawing the state’s political lines for four congressional and 63 legislative seats based on the new population figures from the 2010 U.S. Census.

Attorneys for Democrats and Republicans used the terminology to make their cases for how the new political lines should be drawn. Most of the hearing focused on the four congressional seats that must be drawn for the 2012 general election. Nevada earned a 4th seat due to population gains over the past decade.

Time is of the essence in the dispute, with the election season set to get under way early next year.

Attorney Mark Hutchison, representing the Republican Party, argued that the Hispanic community in central Las Vegas should form the basis for one of the four congressional districts in any new redistricting plan.

Attorney Marc Elias, representing Democrats, argued that while communities of interest should be considered, there is no requirement in the federal Voting Rights Act that a predominantly Hispanic district be created.

Special Master Thomas Sheets, from left, GOP attorney Mark Hutchison and Democrat attorneys Mark Braden and Marc Elias confer after the redistricting hearing today. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

After the hearing, Hutchison said: “The court is going to take care to make sure this process is fair and from the beginning that’s all the Republicans have wanted, for the process to be fair. We want to start with a level playing field and let the chips fall where they might. We’re just opposed to any sort of a partisan Democratic slant to this process and I think we got that today.”

Hutchison said he will not appeal Russell’s ruling on how the redistricting process should be carried out by the special masters.

Elias declined to say whether he would appeal Russell’s ruling on the guidelines for the special masters on how to draw the maps.

“I always take these things one step at a time,” he said. “I’m here today and I’m going to wait for the ruling.

“Look, you heard the same thing I did – I think he said he was going to take this under advisement, he obviously listened attentively, he said he was going to do some research and then I expect we will hear from him.”

Russell has appointed the three special masters – Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson – to draw new political districts.

The issue ended up in the courts when a bipartisan plan could not be hammered out between Democrats and Republicans in the 2011 legislative session.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed two redistricting plans, both of which were vetoed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval.

While not immediately ruling on the Hispanic congressional district question, Russell did announce some developments in his plan to resolve the dispute.

He announced that the special masters will hold two public hearings, one in Las Vegas on Oct. 10 in the Grant Sawyer State Office Building, and the other Oct. 11 in the Carson City legislative building, to take comment from interested parties on what Nevada’s new districts should look like.

Following those hearings, the special masters will have until Oct. 21 to submit new political maps to the court. Russell said he will then release their report and proposed maps to the public.

Russell said that by Nov. 15 or 16 he will decide whether to accept the maps as drawn by the special masters or send the issue back for any specific revisions he deems necessary.

Regardless of how he rules, the redistricting issue is expected to end up in front of the Nevada Supreme Court, and could be appealed into the federal court system as well.

Elias asked Russell to use Senate Bill 497, the second redistricting measure passed by Democrats but vetoed by Sandoval, as the starting point for the special masters to draw new districts.

Hutchison and other attorneys representing Republicans rejected the idea, saying the maps approved for the 2001 redistricting, along with the many sets of maps proposed this year by lawmakers and citizens, could all be considered by the special masters as a starting point.

Attorney Daniel Stewart, representing Clark County resident Daniel Garza, who opposed SB497, said the congressional districts in the bill inappropriately “fractured” the Las Vegas Hispanic community into three different districts to create three safe Democrat congressional seats.

“This is a perfect example of what I think the masters shouldn’t do,” he said.

But Elias warned that any effort to focus exclusively on creating one Hispanic congressional district could lead to “racial gerrymandering” which would put any plan approved by Russell at risk for a federal court challenge. It is not possible to draw a congressional district in Las Vegas that would have a majority of eligible Hispanic voters, he said.

There is also no evidence of block voting by white residents that has thwarted the efforts of Hispanics to elect candidates of their choice, Elias said, noting the election of Sandoval, who is Hispanic.

One of the experts cited by Republican as evidence of block voting by whites was the election of former state Sen. Bob Coffin to the Las Vegas City Council in Ward 3, defeating Hispanic candidate Adriana Martinez in the process, he said. But the expert failed to note that Coffin is of Hispanic heritage himself, Elias said.

“Nevada is not Mississippi,” he said. “There is no white block voting in Clark County.”

Attorneys also argued their positions on other issues, including whether two state Assembly districts should be drawn to fit exactly within each state Senate seat, a process called “nesting.”

They also argued whether “representational fairness”, or consideration of how many “safe” seats each political party should have, is appropriately before the special masters.

A number of prominent Democrats have either announced or are said to be interested in running for the Southern Nevada congressional seats even though the district lines have yet to be drawn. Already announced candidates include Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, former Rep. Dina Titus who lost to Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., in the 2010 election, state Sen. John Lee of North Las Vegas and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen of Las Vegas. Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford of Las Vegas is also said to be interested in running for Congress.


Audio clips:

GOP attorney Mark Hutchison says Republicans want a level playing field:

092111Hutchison :25 got that today.”

Democrat attorney Marc Elias says Judge Russell listened attentively and will issue his ruling after conducting some research:

092111Elias :15 hear from him.”