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Court masters propose splitting NV's 2nd district
by Oskar Garcia - Associated Press
Oct 15, 2011 | 880 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A panel of court masters on Friday proposed splitting Nevada's northern congressional district that includes Reno and most rural areas of the state as part of a plan to redraw boundaries to make room for a fourth district.

A judge in Carson City late Friday afternoon scheduled a hearing on the plan for Oct. 27, and ordered lawyers for state Democrats and Republicans to file opposition to the plan by Oct. 24.

A state Democratic party official declined immediate comment when reached by The Associated Press.

Mark Hutchinson, a lawyer representing the Nevada GOP, said he'd wait to form a fuller opinion until he had more information about how the districts break down. But he said it appeared that the panel tried to preserve minority voting blocs even though it stopped short of the Hispanic majority-minority district Republicans wanted.

"We argued and believed that there was enough evidence to support a majority-minority district," he told the AP. "However, if the courts accomplished basically the same result by drawing districts and preserving communities of interest, then we are — although disappointed in the majority-minority district decision — happy that the special masters have preserved communities of interest."

"I'm not giving up on the majority-minority district, but I'm saying that there really were a couple ways that the (special masters) could have approached this," he said.

The new boundaries proposed by the panel would have separate districts for northern Nevada, urban Las Vegas and southern Clark County, plus a fourth district that includes most of central Nevada, most of North Las Vegas and some smaller towns including Moapa Valley and Indian Springs that are currently grouped in Nevada's 3rd District.

The panel said in its report that it didn't find enough evidence to justify a Hispanic-majority district.

"No particular minority group was sufficiently and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single member district," the panel said. "... There was evidence that a minority group or groups were 'politically cohesive.'"

The judge asked the panel to draw the boundaries after the Legislature didn't finish the job during the recent legislative session.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed two maps, but each version was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The boundaries are meant to reflect the state's shifting demographics, and the parties have disagreed about how to section the state's growing Hispanic population.

Hispanics make up one-fourth of Nevada's population and largely voted for top Democrats during elections in 2008 and 2010. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid won re-election in 2010 with support from two-thirds of the Hispanic vote, while President Barack Obama won the state in 2008 with overwhelming minority support, including three-fourths of Hispanics.

Because of the population growth — Nevada had the country's fastest growing population from 2001 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census — the Silver State is getting a new, fourth seat in the House of Representatives.

Democrats wanted the maps drawn in such a way that give them a shot at taking three of the four seats, while Republicans preferred to give Hispanics their own minority-majority district — and the GOP the inside track on taking two of the four congressional seats.

The Nevada Supreme Court is expected to hear a challenge from Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller on Nov. 14, to decide whether any judge can resolve the redistricting given that the state constitution requires lawmakers to do it.

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