weather icon Mostly Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Nevada lawmakers prepare for redistricting process

CARSON CITY — The Legislature has received complete 2010 U.S. Census data and will have its first redistricting hearing March 10.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom and Sen. David Parks, both D-Las Vegas, also will have joint public hearings on redistricting in Fallon, Reno and Las Vegas in late March. They are the chairmen of the Legislative Operations and Elections committees, which oversee reapportionment matters.

“Governor (Brian) Sandoval has said he will veto any reapportionment bill that is not fair,” Segerblom said. “We will try to make it fair.”

The Senate and Assembly are controlled by Democrats. During the last redistricting session in 2001, Republicans controlled the Senate as well as the governor’s office.

Consequently, Segerblom expects the Republican governor to be much more active in reapportionment talks than Gov. Kenny Guinn was 10 years ago.

Redistricting is expected to be one of the key political battles of the 2011 Legislature as both parties try to draw seats in ways to help their candidates win elections for the next decade.

Every 10 years, legislatures across the nation redraw boundaries for legislative, congressional and other seats to reflect changes in population found by the census.

A 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision requires districts to have nearly the same population.

For Assembly seats, that is about 65,000 residents, and for Senate seats, 130,000, Segerblom said.

Because 72 percent of Nevada’s 2.7 million residents live in Clark County, that means the county must have that percentage of legislative seats.

Now 14 of the 21 Senate seats are in Clark County, as well as 29 of the 42 Assembly seats. For the county to have 72 percent of all seats, it should have 15 Senate and 30 Assembly seats.

Segerblom expects moves from Sandoval and Northern Nevada legislators to increase the size of the Legislature so that Washoe County and rural Nevada do not lose seats.

But adding each seat would cost $55,000 in salary, travel and secretarial expenses and $150,000 to construct new offices to accommodate them, according to the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

Segerblom isn’t sure whether the additional costs are justified because “anyway you look at it, Clark County still gets nearly three-fourths of the seats.”

In addition, three of the four congressional seats also should go to Clark County, Segerblom said, acknowledging the districts “could be drawn any way you want.”

Nevada was awarded a fourth congressional seat because of the population growth the past decade.

Segerblom hinted that lawmakers might increase the size of the Legislature in exchange for the new congressional seat in a district that favors a Democrat.

“I am willing to listen,” he said. “That’s why we are having public hearings.”

Population data will be loaded into publicly accessible computers over the next two weeks in the Legislative Building in Carson City and at the Sawyer Building in Las Vegas.

Nevada residents and legislators can use the computers to draw election districts any way they want, Segerblom said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.