Legislators begin special session to redraw political maps

By: - November 13, 2021 6:06 am

Republicans objected to the setting of procedural rules they believe will limit much of the action to a joint committee hearing room rather than the full chambers, but Democrats didn’t need their votes to approve those rules. (Legislative Counsel Bureau photo)

The first day of the long awaited special session on redistricting began Friday, setting in motion the approval process for the political maps Nevada will use for its next decade of elections.

Gov. Steve Sisolak issued the formal proclamation early Friday and the session officially began that afternoon. The proclamation set the topics that can be discussed to the specific political maps that must be approved and the judicial candidate filing deadlines. Redistricting typically takes place during the Legislature’s regular session but the pandemic delayed 2020 Census collections and pushed back the once-a-decade map-drawing process for states and municipalities across the country.

Contentious issues like political gerrymandering and fair representation of minority groups and other communities of interest are expected to arise in the upcoming days, but Friday’s start held few fireworks.

The new most powerful committee

Republicans objected to the setting of procedural rules they believe will limit much of the action to a joint committee hearing room rather than the full chambers, but Democrats didn’t need their votes to approve those rules.

Minority Leader Robin Titus said the procedures approved will “disenfranchise” lawmakers from both political parties who aren’t on the redistricting subcommittee and allow the majority party to rush through issues of critical importance to the state. Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson countered that the procedural rules set were “not novel or new” and mirrored those used by the state Legislature in 2011, the last time the redistricting process was completed.

The subcommittees, which are expected to hold joint meetings, will include 17 lawmakers in total — 10 from the Assembly and seven from the Senate. The Legislature as a whole contains 63 members.

On the Assembly side, Democrats Britney Miller, Steve Yeager, Theresa Benitez Thompson, Sandra Jaurgeui, Daniele Monroe Moreno and Rochelle Nguyen will serve, along with Republican Ira Hansen, Glenn Leavitt, Andy Matthews and Jill Tolles.

Miller served as chair of the interim redistricting committee, which prior to the special session held a series of meetings to inform the public about the redistricting process.

In the Senate, Democrats James Ohrenschall, Roberta Lange, Nicole Cannizzaro and Fabian Donate will sit on the committee, as will Republicans Pete Goicochea, Heidi Seevers Gansert and Carrie Buck.

Adjusting judicial candidate filing period

Lawmakers held one hearing for the bill that contains the least contentious issues up for discussion: a one-time adjustment of the 2022 filing deadlines for judicial candidates.

The judicial candidate filing period is statutorily set for January, but county election officials are requesting that the filing period be delayed in 2022 to align with the non-judicial candidate filing period, which will take place in March. The change would apply only to 2022 and revert to the January deadlines in 2023.

Keeping the January deadlines as is would burden their county election offices, the officials say. Election offices will have a significant amount of work ahead of them implementing the maps approved by the Legislature. They would have to stop that work to process judicial candidates, then resume the redistricting work after.

In response to that deadline adjustment, the Nevada Supreme Court is expected to suspend campaign funding requirements for 2022. Judicial candidates are currently not allowed to fundraise unless they have a competitor.

Board of Regents maps

Included in the same bill as the judicial filing deadline adjustment are the proposed maps for the state’s 13-member Board of Regents.

The Board of Regents approved these maps at a meeting on Sept. 9, and lawmakers Friday expressed no concerns and few questions about them.

Joe Reynolds, chief counsel for the Nevada System of Higher Education, told lawmakers on the redistricting committee that almost a third of the 13-member board will now represent Clark County. That shifting of power south to Clark is one theme likely to emerge in all of the Legislature’s proposed maps.

Five of the 13 regents districts are majority non-white, up from only two currently. Two of those five districts are majority Hispanic.

What’s next

The redistricting committee was expected to meet Saturday morning for a hearing on the most contentious items: the proposed congressional and state legislature maps.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.