A political action committee is again pushing for an independent redistricting commission to appear on the 2024 ballot, aiming to change how the state conducts its once-a-decade rewrite of state and federal legislative districts.
Fair Maps Nevada filed two initiative petitions with the secretary of state’s office this week that aim to end gerrymandering — the practice of manipulating boundaries of an electoral district to favor one party or class — and instead establish an independent commission to oversee the mapping, taking the duty away from the state Legislature.
The group has made repeated efforts to put the initiative on a Nevada ballot since 2020, but those efforts failed due to a lawsuit and insufficient numbers of signatures.
Sondra Cosgrove, president of Fair Maps Nevada, thinks this time will be different.
When Nevada drew its maps in 2021, voters who don’t identify as Democrat or Republican — a group that now comprises 40 percent of registered voters — were not represented, Cosgrove said.
“I’m wanting to communicate out to these nonpartisan voters that if you’re going to be a voter, you should have representation,” said Cosgrove, who is also involved in the “Yes on 3” campaign that would implement nonpartisan primaries and ranked choice voting.
Fair Maps Nevada submitted two different ballot questions: one that would redraw the maps in 2027 and another that would redraw the maps in 2031, which is the scheduled time when the maps get redrawn.
The ballot questions need 102,000 valid signatures, and — because it would amend the state constitution — voter approval in the 2024 and 2026 elections.
Cosgrove said the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the state an F grade in its redistricting report card for its congressional map and said the redistricting gave Democrats a significant advantage.
“We do know for certain now that there is gerrymandering in our map,” Cosgrove said.
If nonpartisans come forward to say they weren’t represented when the maps were redrawn in 2021, the ballot question would call for redrawing them early, in 2027, Cosgrove said.
If the ballot initiative succeeds, the independent redistricting commission would be composed of seven members who are registered to vote in Nevada. The Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, Speaker of the Assembly and Assembly Minority Leader will each appoint one person to the commission.
Those people will then appoint three additional commissioners who have not been registered or affiliated with the two largest political parties in at least four years preceding their appointment. Some people cannot be a member of the commission, such as a registered lobbyist, candidate for a partisan office or an employee of the Legislature.
The commissioners must ensure that the districts are politically competitive, do not give an advantage or disadvantage to a political party and that equal opportunities are provided for minorities to participate in the political process.
All of the commission’s meetings will be open to the public and all of their materials will be public records, according to the petition initiative. The public would also be able to submit maps and have them considered, Cosgrove said.
‘Voters more in power’
Nevada’s redistricting process is mostly done out of public view. In 2021, the new maps became public days before the special session convened with no explanation of how they were produced. The 2021 redistricting plan was backed by Democrats but was criticized by Republicans and Hispanic and Latino advocacy groups.
Nevada is one of 33 states where the Legislature plays the main role in congressional redistricting. Fifteen states have a commission that draws the maps for legislative districts, six states have an advisory commission that helps the legislature, and five states have a backup commission that makes the decision if the state’s legislature is unable to agree, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald said Friday that he supports the ballot initiatives.
“Anytime you can put the voters more in power than the politicians that they work for, I think it is always a great thing,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Nevada State Democratic Party did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.