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Democrats, Republicans submit plans for remapping districts

Thu, Jul 21, 2011 (2:09 p.m.)

CARSON CITY — Attorneys for both the Democratic and the Republican Parties agree that a key issue in the battle over reapportionment is deciding whether or not the Hispanic population has a majority in one of the four Nevada Congressional Districts.

Both sides filed briefs Wednesday with District Judge Todd Russell saying the federal Voting Rights Act should be interpreted before panelists started drawing the lines. The 2010 census counted 26 percent of Nevadans as Hispanic.

Both parties submitted their recommendations on who should serve on a panel to set the lines for Congress and the Nevada Legislature.

Heading the list for the Democrats is former U.S. Sen. Dick Bryan, former Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa, former UNLV President Carol Harter and former UNR President Joe Crowley.

Republican in-state recommendations are Alan Schlottmann, professor of Economics at UNLV; Shruti Tandon, director of the Department of Computing & Engineering Technology at the College of Southern Nevada; James Elithorp of Great Basin College in Elko and Dawn Okerlund a technical analyst for the city of Henderson.

Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed the two Democratic reapportionment bills passed by the Legislature setting the lines for the four congressional seats and the state Senate and Assembly.

One reason Sandoval gave was the bills did not comply with the federal Voting Rights Act and “of the four Congressional seats it establishes not one contains a Hispanic majority.”

Bradley Schrager, attorney for the Democrats, said there were different interpretations of the federal law. And Judge Russell should decide first whether one of the four congressional districts must have the Hispanic population as a majority.

Schrager said the judge should determine first if the plan approved by the Legislature violated the federal law.

Jacob Reynolds, attorney for the Republicans, said the most important legal question in the reapportionment debate is for the judge “to decide what protections the voting rights Act affords Nevada’s Hispanic Community so that it has an equal opportunity to elect the candidates of its choice.”

Democrats want Judge Russell to issue his decision on the boundaries of the districts by March 2012, the date when candidates can begin filing. And they say any decision by Russell will likely be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court or to a federal court.

Other nominees by the Democrats to serve on a panel drawing up the lines are Bruce Cain of the University of California, Berkeley; Kenneth Fernandez of UNLV; Jeff Hardcastle, the state demographer; Justin Levitt of the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, Karin MacDonald who heads a statewide data firm in California; Nathaniel Persily of Columbia Law School; Richard Pildes of New York University School of Law; Jim Richardson of UNR and Guy Rocha, the former state archivist.

Other Republican nominees are Douglas Johnson of Claremont McKenna College in California; Gary King of Harvard University; Bernard Grofman of the University of California, Irvine and Nathaniel Persily of Columbia Law School.

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