Nevada Lawmakers Begin Redrawing State's Political Maps

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Frustrations from Republicans and progressive organizers alike slowly surfaced Friday as Nevada lawmakers began the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state's political maps.

The state's Democratic-controlled Legislature introduced new bills to reapportion and redraw districts used to elect representatives to U.S. Congress, the statehouse and the Board of Regents, which oversees public colleges and universities.

With majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, Democrats will likely pass the maps in the coming days without major changes. They will then go to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak for final approval.

Though the maps will likely spark lawsuits, the opening day of the redistricting session saw few fireworks. Lawmakers introduced a revised Board of Regents map and heard a proposal to change filing deadlines for judicial candidates.

Discussions over the maps has yet to begin, but Republicans lobbed attacks at Democrats for deciding to hold most of them in a subcommittee rather than allowing the entire Legislature to weigh in, propose changes and revise bills containing the maps.

Lobbyists for progressive voting rights groups roamed the hallways of the statehouse, preparing to voice their opposition to proposals that they claim divide the heart of Las Vegas' Latino community into multiple districts and dilute the voting power of working class communities by combining them into districts with affluent cities and retiree neighborhoods.

Redrawn districts must account for a decades worth of growth and movement of people. Nevada’s population increased by 404,000 over the past decade to 3.1 million. The 15% spike in population was largely driven by growth in southern Nevada.

Baseline maps, which legislative leaders proposed on Tuesday, peel votes away from safely Democratic congressional and statehouse districts to add neighborhoods with more Democrats to historically competitive districts. They propose reshaping U.S. Rep. Dina Titus' downtown Las Vegas district and adding minority communities to adjacent congressional districts that have traded hands over the past decade.

Parts of solidly blue statehouse districts represented by Assemblywoman Cecelia Gonzalez and state Sen. Chris Brooks are shifted and elongated in the proposals in a way that adds Democratic voters to historically competitive districts.

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Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.