Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2015

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Damon Political Report

Judge signs off on new congressional districts

Southern Nevada’s plethora of Democratic congressional candidates no longer have an excuse to delay announcing which district they will run for next year.

Carson District Judge James T. Russell today approved new district maps drawn by his three court masters after weeks of public hearings and number crunching.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats voiced an objection to the maps that reject the GOP argument that Hispanic voters were entitled to a majority-minority district under the Voting Rights Act.

Republicans failed to prove that Hispanics live in a compact enough area to draw a majority-minority district in Nevada or that whites vote as a bloc against Hispanic-preferred candidates. Both conditions had to be met in order to invoke the Voting Rights Act, the judge decided.

“I don’t believe the (Voting Rights Act) is even an issue,” Russell said.

Neither side said they are likely to seek a reversal of Russell’s decision in federal court or the Nevada Supreme Court, meaning the congressional districts are likely set for the 2012 election.

“We don’t think there’s much more to do there,” said Mark Hutchison, a lawyer for the Nevada Republican Party.

Five Democrats have announced plans to run for Congress but have waited to declare which districts they will run in until the lines are approved. Under the new maps, Democrats have two safe districts in Clark County, Republicans have a safe Northern Nevada district and U.S. Rep. Joe Heck's district has a slight Democratic advantage.

While the congressional district maps appear to be settled, the possibility still exists for a showdown at the Nevada Supreme Court over the Assembly and Senate district maps.

Lawyers for both Republicans and Democrats said they need to review changes that Russell made to the Senate districts drawn by the masters before deciding whether to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Republicans had objected to the way the masters drew the Senate districts, arguing they gave an unfair advantage to Democrats in three Southern Nevada districts.

Russell rejected that argument, but said state Sen. Barbara Cegavaske’s district was too irregularly shaped to comply with the law. His changes had little impact on the partisan registration of the three districts Republicans objected to.

The Nevada Supreme Court has scheduled a Nov. 15 hearing on several legal arguments in the redistricting case, including whether the governor had the authority to veto the redistricting maps passed by the Legislature.

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