The panel of three last week proposed splitting Nevada’s northern congressional district that includes Reno and most rural areas of the state as part of a plan to redraw boundaries to make room for a fourth district.
The masters — Carson City Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former Legislative Counsel Bureau staffer Robert — also submitted maps to redraw the state’s 21 Senate and 42 Assembly districts.
District Judge James Todd Russell gave lawyers until 5 p.m. Monday to file their oppositions to the plan. A hearing was scheduled Thursday in Carson City.
Russell appointed the special masters after two sets of maps approved by Democrats in the 2011 Legislature were vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. The Republican governor said the plans amounted to partisan gerrymandering and violated the Voting Rights Act by the way it distributed minorities.
Sandoval refused to call lawmakers into special session to resolve the issue, saying he would leave it to the courts.
But Russell’s handling of the process — and his decision to allow the special masters to decide some key legal issues — was challenged by Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller. He filed a petition with the Nevada Supreme Court questioning whether a judge can resolve the redistricting controversy given that the state constitution requires lawmakers to do it. A hearing before the high court is set for Nov. 14.
Republican lawyers had argued that Nevada’s booming Hispanic population, which now accounts for a quarter of state residents, requires one congressional district be comprised of a Hispanic majority. Democrats countered that amounted to “packing” and would dilute Hispanic influence in other voting districts.
The panel said in its report that it didn’t find enough evidence to justify a Hispanic-majority district.
“No particular minority group was sufficiently and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single member district,” the panel said.
Democrats wanted the maps drawn in such a way that give them a shot at taking three of the four congressional seats, while Republicans preferred to give Hispanics their own minority-majority district — and the GOP the inside track on taking two of the four congressional seats.