No challenge filed; election districts will stand
December 7, 2011 - 6:58 pm
CARSON CITY — It’s official.
Because no one filed an appeal Wednesday challenging the redistricting maps drawn by a district judge and his panel, districts for legislators and members of Congress are set in stone for the next 10 years.
That means candidates who want to run in the 2012 election can start filing for office March 5, knowing the boundaries and the political affiliation and ethnic population makeup of their districts.
Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, isn’t happy with the boundaries of his and a few other legislative districts, but he said an appeal would have led to a year or 18 months of litigation in the state Supreme Court before election district boundaries were set.
That would have hampered many legislators who already have announced their candidacies based on the boundaries created Oct. 26 by Carson City District Judge James T. Russell and his three special masters, Las Vegas lawyer Thomas Sheets, former Legislative Counsel Bureau Research Director Bob Erickson and Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover.
“That kind of delay (18 months) would not serve anybody,” Goicoechea said. “It would do more harm than good.”
Filing for legislative and congressional candidates occurs in the first two full weeks of March.
Supreme Court candidates, who run statewide as nonpartisans, start filing Jan. 3.
Goicoechea and Assembly members Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite, and Steven Brooks, D-Las Vegas, are probably the legislators most hurt by the new election districts.
Because of redistricting, Goicoechea is running next year for state Senate District 19, which includes parts of Clark County and five rural counties and runs 500 miles from north to south.
Redistricting occurs after each 10-year federal census. U.S. Supreme Court decisions require election districts to be as close in population as possible. Clark County now has 73 percent of the state’s population, and that means it must receive 73 percent of the election districts.
Hardy’s Assembly District 19 is entirely in Clark County, but because of redistricting, he now shares the district with Brooks. The district includes areas such as Mesquite and Moapa Valley and urban North Las Vegas. If Hardy is to return to the Assembly, he must defeat Brooks. The district is balanced between Democrats and Republicans.
“I am not hurt personally,” Hardy said. “But I think it is wrong what they did to small communities across the state. They put rural districts and urban districts together.”
He noted that the U.S. Supreme Court-approved redistricting policy has been to keep “communities of interest,” such as the rural communities, together.
Goicoechea expressed a similar concern.
“They are supposed to include communities of interest,” he said. “They missed some. What does Mesquite have in common with North Las Vegas?”
Hardy said redistricting should have been done by the Legislature. The state constitution stipulates that it is the Legislature’s “duty” to redistrict.
Democrats did try to get redistricting bills through the Legislature in the spring. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval twice vetoed their bills on the grounds they did not contain enough Hispanic districts.
When the Legislature adjourned June 7 without resolution, redistricting passed to Russell through lawsuits filed by both parties.
Lawyers for the Democratic and Republican parties agreed in October to the maps prepared by Russell and the special masters. Russell asked and secured the assurance of the party lawyers that he had the authority to handle redistricting matters.
A few days later, Sandoval said he had accepted the maps prepared by Russell and the special masters.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.