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Independent redistricting commission amendment dead — for now

Updated July 28, 2020 - 4:48 pm

The effort to amend the state constitution to turn once-a-decade redistricting over to an independent commission appears dead, after the group behind the effort couldn’t gather enough signatures.

Political action committee Fair Maps Nevada was able to collect only 12,000 of the nearly 100,000 signatures that would have been necessary to place the amendment on the November ballot.

The group in May sued for an extension of its signature-gathering deadline and the ability to collect signatures online, when it became clear the pandemic would hamper any in-person methods the committee planned. A judge granted the extra time, but not a platform for e-signatures.

The amendment, proposed late last year with support from the League of Women Voters of Nevada, would amend the constitution to allow an independent commission to redraw political district lines in Nevada, rather than the current method, which empowers the Legislature to do so. Supporters said the change would prevent partisan gerrymandering.

League president Sondra Cosgrove said the group will refocus its efforts to qualify for the 2022 ballot.

“It’s disappointing after spending seven months working on it, but this just means our timeline is a little bit longer,” she said.

The committee also faced a lawsuit from Rev. Leonard Jackson, associate pastor of the First A.M.E. Church in North Las Vegas and executive director of the Faith Organizing Alliance, which said the description of the proposed amendment on the petition was misleading. Fair Maps Nevada amended the description in January and was able to move forward with the petition.

Cosgrove said the committee will now focus more on virtual forums to attract more interest and compile a database of “Pledge to Sign” supporters who are willing to sign the revised petition as soon as it becomes available. The new petition will be filed in 2021, and the committee hopes to amass 200,000 supporters by the time it is released and complete the signature-gathering process within two weeks, Cosgrove said.

With the release of census data delayed until July 2021, the Legislature will have to convene a special session to draw new district lines. (The regular 2021 session is scheduled to begin in February and end in June.) A trained Fair Maps Nevada observer corps will be present to observe the process and ensure the maps are free of gerrymandering, according to the group’s statement.

“It isn’t over,” Cosgrove said.

Contact Amanda Bradford at abradford@reviewjournal.com. Follow @amandabrad_uc on Twitter.

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