Both parties unveiled maps that send extra seats to the populous south by eliminating the northern Nevada Assembly district held by Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, and the Washoe County Senate district occupied by Sen. Greg Brower, who has announced plans to run for Congress.
Politics are inherently involved in the reapportionment process, though legislative leaders said they want to limit its role and focus on giving citizens from diverse backgrounds an equal voice.
“These districts don’t belong to Democrats and Republicans, and they don’t belong to the people that hold them now,” said Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. “They always have belonged to the people.”
The Democrats’ proposal “nests” two Assembly districts within each Senate district; existing Senate and Assembly districts’ boundaries do not align in many cases. The strategy is meant to decrease confusion among voters.
They described their maps as “common sense” because they follow existing city and county boundaries.
Republicans said their plan “respects the current numerical strength of various regional, ethnic, partisan, and individual community groups without infringing on the rights of other Nevadans to effectively participate in the electoral process.”
“If you look at what we drew, it’s fair,” said GOP strategist Mike Slanker. “These districts are equal.”
The redistricting proposals give advantages to their respective drafters.
In the Nevada Senate, the Republican plan creates nine districts likely to elect Democratic candidates, four districts likely to elect Republican candidates, and eight “competitive” districts, in which voter registration numbers between the two major parties are 10 percentage points or less apart.
The Democratic Senate plan creates 13 districts likely to elect Democrats, five districts likely to elect Republicans, and three competitive districts.
In the Nevada Assembly, the Republican plan creates 20 districts likely to elect Democratic candidates, eight districts likely to elect Republicans, and 14 competitive districts. The Democratic Assembly plan creates 23 districts likely to elect Democratic candidates, seven districts likely to elect Republicans, and 12 competitive districts.
The maps will go through many revisions before a final plan is adopted.
Nevada’s growth also earned the state a new, fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats are not releasing their plan to draw new congressional districts, but Republicans released a map Thursday that includes two Democratic, one Republican, and one fairly even district.
Rep. Shelley Berkley’s seat in Nevada’s 1st Congressional District in Las Vegas would retain a Democratic edge by a margin of 45.5 percent to 32 percent.
The 2nd Congressional District, which will be up for grabs in a special election after Republican Rep. Dean Heller is elevated to the Senate next month, will keep its GOP leaning with a margin of 42.8 percent to 35.7 percent.
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., would see the split in his 3rd Congressional District narrow to 41.8 percent GOP and 37.5 percent Democratic. But it would balloon in landmass, stretching from southern Nevada to U.S. 50 — an east-west highway in northern Nevada — even taking in parts of Douglas County near Lake Tahoe.
The new, 4th Congressional District, to be carved out southern Nevada, would lean Democratic by a nearly three-to-one margin.
Nevada grew 35 percent over the past decade, with most of the increase concentrated in Clark County. The growth spurt has left many southern districts much more crowded than the ideal population.
Boundaries are redrawn every 10 years to even out population disparities and reflect new Census data, but can give one party a decade-long political advantage. Legislators meet in committees to negotiate where the boundaries are drawn, then vote on a proposal and send it to the governor for approval.
Democrats control both houses of the legislature and maintain the upper hand, but Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he will veto any map that isn’t “fair.”
Pre-emptive lawsuits have already been filed challenging the Legislature’s ability to tackle the task fairly.