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Why one Las Vegas ward is poised to significantly shrink

Updated November 18, 2021 - 6:11 am

A sprawling electoral district in northwest Las Vegas may soon transform from the city’s most populated ward to its least as officials undertake the decennial process of redrawing political boundaries.

Under the city’s proposed redistricting map, Ward 6 would shed some 25,000 people and concede a significant portion of its southern tip west of U.S. Highway 95 to its Ward 4 neighbor to the south.

The political districts are important because they determine a resident’s representation on the nonpartisan City Council. A three-member panel of city lawmakers will address the proposed map during a public hearing on Nov. 29, providing residents with an opportunity to weigh in on the planned changes before the map advances to the council next month.

It was introduced as a bill on Wednesday.

Leveling the playing field

One of the main intentions of redistricting, which occurs in accordance with the U.S. Census every decade, is to equalize the population totals among districts that shift over time. The city’s charter allows districts to deviate by as much as 5 percent.

Ward 6, which is represented by Councilwoman Michele Fiore, has rapidly grown over the past 10 years as illustrated by its current population: More than 130,000 residents call it home, according to census data cited by the city.

By comparison, there are roughly 98,000 residents living in Ward 3, the district that covers parts of downtown and east Las Vegas. It is the city’s least populated district and about 24 percent smaller than Ward 6.

Most city wards are proposed to grow under the city’s redrawn political map, including Ward 3, which would become the city’s second-largest district by increasing to roughly 109,000 residents.

Only Ward 6 and Ward 2, the far west district that encompasses Summerlin, would lose residents under the proposed shift, although the change would be much less dramatic in Ward 2, which would decrease by roughly 2,000 residents to 106,000.

No ward would have a population more or less than 4.5 percent of another if the proposed map is adopted. The figures do not account for the roughly 1,800 people who are incarcerated within city wards, although the effect of that data on population size is minimal.

Diversity status quo

The adjustments to populations underscore the major changes being considered inside City Hall and illustrate the significant number of residents who will likely soon have new council representation.

But the proposed map’s effect on diversity appears more subtle. In voting-age racial demographics, every ward would either keep roughly the same percentage of white, Black, Hispanic and Asian residents or vary between gains and losses of 1 to 2 percent, according to the proposal.

Ward 3 would remain the only minority-majority district in the city, but the voting-age Hispanic population would decrease from 59 to 57 percent.

Geographical changes

The redrawn map also appears to make efforts to create geographic continuity. For instance, Ward 6 and Ward 5, which cover parts of downtown and the Historic Westside, would gain a combined six precincts east of Highway 95 between Craig and Ann roads that currently belong to Ward 4 and result in Ward 4 leapfrogging the highway.

Richard Manhattan, a sports and entertainment consultant who lives in Ward 1, expressed concern about the prospect that he and neighbors in five precincts south of Sahara Avenue would be pushed into Ward 3.

Ward 1 covers central Las Vegas, almost entirely west of Interstate 15, including the Medical District. It is poised to grow from the city’s third-most to its most populated district by gaining nearly 7,400 residents.

Under the proposed change, however, four precincts south of Sahara Avenue would become the only territory west of the freeway represented by Ward 3 Councilwoman Olivia Diaz.

“It doesn’t make logical sense to me,” Manhattan said, adding that he has canvassed neighbors on the proposed change.

He worried that it would be difficult to cross the Interstate 15 and a large industrial corridor to build community with Ward 3 and that east Las Vegas voters would be positioned to control his neighborhood’s political destiny.

Ward 1 Councilman Brian Knudsen acknowledged Wednesday that the proposed change represented a personal loss “because I really spent so much time in those areas.” But he also said he did not believe it was healthy to split votes on big decisions nor did he want to hamper Diaz’s effectiveness as that area’s likely incoming councilwoman.

“I don’t see a whole lot of value in being a 6-1 vote,” he said in an interview.

Visit the city’s website at LasVegasNevada.gov and type “redistricting” in the search tool to view the proposed redrawn political map.

The city’s Recommending Committee is scheduled to hold the public hearing on the map at 10 a.m. Nov. 29 inside council chambers at City Hall in downtown Las Vegas, 495 S. Main St.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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