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EDITORIAL: Partisan gerrymandering for me, but not for thee

A state judge has tossed a proposed Nevada ballot question on redistricting, but the exercise highlights the complete hypocrisy of Democrats when it comes to partisan gerrymandering.

Carson City Judge Robert Estes ruled last week that two petitions seeking to amend the Nevada Constitution to create a committee to draw legislative and congressional districts every decade were legally problematic because they didn’t identify a funding source for the proposal, as required by law.

Notably, the plan was challenged by two Las Vegas law firms with close ties to Democratic politics.

To the uninitiated, this might seem odd. Nationally, Democrats have spent the better part of the past decade railing against gerrymandering — the process by which districts are drawn to favor one party over another — as a dire threat to democracy. They have brought lawsuits in a number of states challenging the legality of the process when Republicans have used legislative majorities to their advantage.

Yet here in Nevada, Democrats have a virtual ironclad lock on both chambers of the Legislature because they engaged in precisely the type of behavior for which they vocally criticize the GOP. They have aggressively manipulated the redistricting system to ensure they maintain their stranglehold in Carson City. The only suspense left in November’s balloting is whether they’ll win supermajorities in both the state Senate and Assembly.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gives Nevada an F for “partisan fairness” and recognizes a “significant Democratic advantage.”

So when the Fair Maps Nevada PAC proposed having an independent commission rather than the Legislature redraw district boundaries every 10 years, state Democrats grumbled. “Despite all the rhetoric” about Republicans and gerrymandering, a University of Colorado law professor told The Hill, Democrats “have shown themselves to be equally thirsty for power.”

There’s no guarantee that a commission would draw “fairer” congressional and legislative boundaries, of course. Members of a redistricting panel would be political appointees and bring their own objectives and biases. Still, 13 states have implemented such an approach in an effort to suppress the instincts of the elected class.

Whether Nevadans seek to go in that direction remains to be seen. Fair Maps Nevada PAC probably will appeal Judge Estes’ ruling on the grounds that a commission won’t cost any more than the 2021 special legislative session called to address redistricting.

Either way, Democratic efforts here to scuttle reform speak volumes about the depth of their commitment to saving the republic from the dangers of gerrymandering.

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