Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 | 8:15 p.m.
Legislative leaders have begun informal discussions on the possibility of negotiating a compromise on redistricting in the wake of Wednesday's Nevada Supreme Court decision to intervene in the legal battle over how to redraw the state’s political districts.
A Democratic source said those discussions have been brief but “could speed up” after the court indicated it could use its power to order a special session, or even at-large elections, in the absence of new congressional, Senate and Assembly districts.
In an order handed down late Wednesday, the Nevada Supreme Court directed Secretary of State Ross Miller, as well as both parties involved in the redistricting lawsuit, to submit briefs on a slew of fundamental legal questions at the heart of the battle.
The questions include the very issue of whether the court can be involved in redistricting at all, given the fact the constitution mandates it is a legislative responsibility.
On a strictly party-line vote, the Democratic majority in the Legislature passed two sets of redistricting maps this year, both of which were vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican.
But in its order, the Supreme Court called into question whether the governor has the power to veto the redistricting maps, setting up the possibility that the maps drawn by the Democrats could become law.
The court’s order came in response to an emergency writ filed by Miller, who accused Carson District Judge James Todd Russell of abdicating his duty to rule on the fundamental legal questions raised by Republicans and Democrats in the redistricting lawsuit.
Russell has assigned the redistricting task to three special masters, ordering them to hold two public hearings and submit redrawn maps by Oct. 21. Russell set the aggressive schedule after receiving an unusual letter from Chief Justice Nancy Saitta questioning his ability to handle the complex case quickly enough to have new lines in place before next year’s election.
The Supreme Court’s decision to intervene throws that schedule into question. The Supreme Court has set oral arguments for Nov. 14.
Sandoval has so far been adamant that he will not call the Legislature into a special session to decide redistricting.
But the court’s order today created a new urgency to settle the matter, which has prompted initial discussions among lawmakers.