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Nevada Legislature approves Democrats’ redistricting plan

CARSON CITY — No surprise. The Democratic majority in both houses of the Legislature approved the party’s redistricting plan Tuesday, setting up a sure veto from the Republican governor.

The Senate approved the redistricting bill on an 11-10 party-line vote, while the Assembly approved it 25-17.

Democratic Assemblyman Harvey Munford, whose Las Vegas district would disappear under the Democrats’ plan, joined Republicans in opposing the bill.

GOP leaders in the Legislature don’t see the two parties ever agreeing on redistricting. They figure the courts will decide how Assembly, Senate and congressional districts are redrawn in Nevada to reflect the 2010 census.

Redistricting is important because it will help determine how much political power each party has in the Legislature and Congress. The Democrats’ plan would give them at least 62 percent of state legislative seats over the next 10 years, Republicans said.

Republican leaders expect Gov. Brian Sandoval to veto Senate Bill 497.

Unless someone’s vote changes, the Democrats would fall three votes short in each house of the two-thirds number required to override that veto.

Sandoval has five days from the day the bill reaches his office to act.

There still is plenty of time left in the legislative session, scheduled to adjourn June 6, for legislators to craft a more acceptable redistricting plan. But Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, and Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, expect that the two parties won’t agree and that a court ultimately will decide.

“I have done this twice before,” said McGinness, a 23-year legislator. “This one looks like it ends up in court.”

Goicoechea made similar comments Saturday after the Democrats’ plan was approved on a party-line vote in the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.

In well-orchestrated floor debates, Republicans in both houses said the Democrats’ plan violates the federal Voting Rights Act and would hurt Hispanics by creating districts that would be hard for them to win.

They said their redistricting plan would lead to four Hispanic majority Senate districts, eight Hispanic majority Assembly districts and a Hispanic majority congressional district. Hispanics make up 26.5 percent of the state’s population.

Democrats made limited rebuttals to the Republican challenges.

But in the Senate, Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, questioned the sudden Republican interest in electing Hispanic legislators.

“I applaud my colleagues’ desire to help my community,” quipped Denis, who is one of 10 Hispanics in the 63-member Legislature.

While the Republican governor is a Hispanic, no Hispanic Republicans are in the Legislature.

Denis said the Republican plan “packs” the Hispanic population into a few districts and is designed to prevent them from winning non-Hispanic majority districts.

Under the Republican plan, the new 4th Congressional District would be 50.7 percent Hispanic, centered in North Las Vegas and Las Vegas. None of the Democratic-drawn congressional districts would be more than 33 percent Hispanic.

But Denis said several Hispanic legislators won in districts with less than a 50 percent Hispanic population.

“Their plan dilutes our influence,” he said.

He said Hispanics “want a voice” in all districts, even if they are not the majority. “You get less of a voice if you put them all in one district. Look at the Republican history. They haven’t been very supportive of the Hispanic community.”

On the other hand, Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, said the Democrats’ plan “fractures” the Hispanic community and reduces its chances of winning seats.

As a former U.S. attorney, Brower said that he once enforced the federal Voting Rights Act and that the Democrats’ plan violates that law.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

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