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Lawsuits filed to block Nevada redistricting ballot initiatives

Updated December 11, 2023 - 10:13 am

Lawsuits were filed Thursday to block the 2024 initiative petitions that seek to establish an independent redistricting commission.

Plaintiff Eric Jeng, a Clark County resident who also serves as senior adviser for the Asian Community Development Council, argues in the complaints filed in Carson City District Court that the initiatives violate the Nevada Constitution because they would require government funding.

Fair Maps Nevada PAC filed two initiative petitions in November that aim to end gerrymandering — the practice of manipulating boundaries of an electoral district to favor one party or class — by establishing a seven-member independent redistricting commission to redraw the maps, rather than giving the responsibility to the Legislature. The PAC submitted two different questions, one that would redraw the maps in 2027 and another that would redraw the maps in 2031.

In the complaints submitted by Las Vegas attorney Bradley Schrager, Jeng argues the initiatives are nearly identical to a petition that was circulated in 2019, which was also met with litigation. In that case, a judge concluded that the description was inadequate in that it did not provide enough information about the cost of the initiative.

The Nevada Constitution prohibits any initiative that requires the expenditure of money unless it also imposes a tax to cover the costs, the complaint says. The plaintiff argues that redistricting commissions in other states required millions of dollars in state funding, and there is no reason to believe Nevada would be any different.

In order to comply with all the requirements, the commission would require significant expert and technological support, the complaint says. The petition requires the commission to hold public meetings with the opportunity for public viewing and testimony, which would also cost money.

Sondra Cosgrove, president of Fair Maps Nevada, said the PAC will be challenging the complaints against both initiatives.

For the initiative that would redraw the maps in 2027, “if our ballot question will involve spending even $1 of new public money,” Fair Maps Nevada will lose the right to run ballot questions, and the collective right to vote on them, Cosgrove said in an email.

There are no options for Nevadans to identify how to pay for something proposed in a ballot question, she said. In their response to the complaint, the group may ask the court to make a decision that balances “our constitutional right to run a ballot question against the need to notify voters that the ballot question outcome may need public funding,” Cosgrove said.

For the second ballot petition that would redraw the maps in 2031, funds are already allocated for redistricting at that time and can be used to fund the independent redistricting commission, Cosgrove said.

A previous version of this article misstated Eric Jeng’s role with the Asian Community Development Council. Jeng formerly served as the director of outreach but now serves as senior adviser.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on X.

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