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Washoe Co. moves closer to redistricting
by Joshua H. Silavent
Sep 29, 2011 | 1406 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO – The Washoe County Commission is moving closer to finalizing new voting districts and a decision might come as soon as an Oct. 11 meeting.

The commission on Tuesday reached an agreement on the boundaries for districts 1 and 2, represented by Chairman John Breternitz and Commissioner David Humke, which make up the southernmost portion of the county.

Spanish Springs remains a point of contention, Management Services Director John Slaughter said on Wednesday.

Commissioners have agreed not to split the area into two districts with Pyramid Highway as the dividing line. Instead, Slaughter said he would present two new redistricting maps at the next county commission meeting showing Spanish Springs in both District 4, represented by Bob Larkin, and District 5, represented by Bonnie Weber. Commissioners will then have to choose between the two maps.

Sun Valley also has been a hot topic of discussion, with the local NAACP and Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada supporting plans to retain the area as a single voting bloc in order to increase minority and low-income representation. Officials with these organizations have also pushed to have District 3, represented by Kitty Jung and considered the “urban core” of the county, extended to incorporate more low-income neighborhoods located south and west of downtown Reno.

Slaughter said the commission has rejected these plans and intends to split Sun Valley between districts 3 and 5, though District 3 will consume more of the area.

This move actually pushes the southern boundary of District 3 farther north in order to retain proportional population counts, Slaughter said.

According to guidelines for redistricting, each commission district should be as equal in population as possible.

The 2010 U.S. Census reports that the county’s population has grown to more than 421,000, a 24 percent increase since 2000, setting a target population for each district at slightly more than 84,000 – give or take 5 percent.

Based on the current district boundaries, some commission seats far exceed the target population count while others fall well below it. District 2, represented by Humke, is the only district currently within the target range.

Other considerations officials take into account when redrawing the voting districts include the Voting Rights Act and issues of fair minority representation; drawing boundaries that are compact and contiguous; using existing districts (drawn in 2001) as benchmarks; and retaining the current residence of each incumbent commissioner in their newly drawn districts.
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