Doing the People’s Business

On Oct. 10, the three special masters appointed by Carson City District Court to redistrict Nevada’s congressional and legislative districts held a public hearing in Las Vegas. They listened to attorneys and witnesses from the parties that have sued over redistricting, and then to public comment. Twenty-three members of the masses spoke on the topic.

Forgive the lapse into first-person singular, but I was one of them.

District Judge James Todd Russell appointed three masters to figure out the maps: Thomas Sheets, a partner with McDonald Carano Wilson, a prominent law firm; Robert Erickson, a former official with the Legislative Counsel Bureau; and Allen Glover, a former legislator who is now the Carson City recorder.

They have been asked to do the legislature’s job. The Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature had passed a redistricting plan that Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed. Republicans argued for the need for a “majority/minority” district—meaning Hispanic—and that this gave Hispanics a better chance to elect people (although Sandoval and Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto somehow won). Democrats wanted to spread out Hispanic voters into more districts, which could help the party win more seats—not that Democrats had skin in the game.

Now, if you have read my stuff, you know I have political views. In this case, though, I’m more upset that the Legislature didn’t do the job it’s supposed to do every 10 years, after the census. But the plan I presented was designed to help both sides, balance the size of the districts, and keep communities of interest together.  In other words, a Hispanic section would stay together as much as possible, as would historic West Las Vegas.

Nevada now will have four House seats. Under my plan, Southern Nevada’s urban core would have two seats, both of which would be almost certainly Democratic. But District 3, which is Rep. Joe Heck’s bailiwick, would be more ex-urban, in conservative areas, and reach out into rural and small-town Clark County, as it does now. That would help Republicans.

So would extending the district. Nevada’s population is now about 2.7 million, meaning each congressional seat should represent about 675,000. To get to that number, District 3 would expand into rural counties, up into central Nevada.  So it would include Nye, tied to Clark County with the bedroom community of Pahrump and the Nevada Test Site; Lincoln, which Clark County once was part of; White Pine, which may end up being connected to Clark County with an environmentally dubious pipeline; and into Lander and Eureka counties. Republicans would wind up with a slight registration advantage in that district, so they would benefit, but Democrats would have a chance.

The plan was designed to give ethnic minorities a large role in electing one and possibly two of the members of the House, to give both parties a fair shot at winning at least two of the four House seats, and to even out the number of residents in each district. Will they use my plan? Probably not. But I thought my maps were pretty.

Michael Green is a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada.