- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Unlike some other states where Republicans used their gains in statewide elections to seize control of the redistricting process after the 2010 census, the re-drawing of Nevada’s voting districts was done by a court-appointed panel and overseen by a judge.

Politics was still at play as Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval twice vetoed maps approved by Democratic lawmakers and tossed the task of redistricting to the courts.

Democrats held majorities in both the Nevada Senate and Assembly in 2011, a year after the census set up the once-a-decade political jockeying to revamp voting boundaries to account for population and demographic changes.

Before the 2010 election, the GOP had majorities in 36 state legislative bodies. Afterward, the party controlled 56. In half the states, Republicans won control of the entire redistricting process, giving them immense power to draw favorable districts for Congress and state legislatures. In other states, Republicans gained control of at least one legislative chamber, limiting the ability of Democrats to draw districts that favored their candidates.

In all, Republicans controlled the process of drawing the boundaries for 210 House districts, compared to just 44 House districts for the Democrats. The rest were drawn by split legislatures or, in a few states, independent commissions that are supposed to be nonpartisan.

In 2012, gerrymandered districts helped Republicans hold onto a 33-seat majority in the House despite widespread GOP losses. Nationwide, Democratic candidates for the House received 1.4 million more votes than their GOP opponents, yet Democrats were still stuck in the minority. It was only the second time since World War II that the party receiving the most votes had failed to win a majority of House seats, according to statistics compiled by the House clerk.

Nevada picked up a fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, thanks to continued population growth that had previously earned Nevada a second seat in 1982 and a third in 2002. The partisan bickering three years ago focused on Nevada’s growing Hispanic population, which now accounts for about a quarter of all residents.

Republicans and Democrats accused each other of trying to manipulate the boundaries for their own political gain under the guise of benefiting Hispanics.

Republicans insisted one congressional district should include a majority of Hispanics to allow them to elect someone of their choosing. Democrats countered that amounted to “packing” and was an attempt to isolate Hispanics and minimize their influence in the three other districts.

In 2011, no plans put forth by the Republican minority in the Nevada Legislature were ever brought to a vote. Instead, maps passed by Democrats ran into Sandoval’s veto pen. Sandoval said the Democratic maps amounted to political gerrymandering and were illegal under the Voting Rights Act.

A special panel appointed by a judge concluded there was no evidence to justify creating a Hispanic-majority district.

The final maps adopted by the court kept northern Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District in solid Republican territory, while the 1st District in Las Vegas stayed a Democratic stronghold.

The 3rd District held by Republican Rep. Joe Heck had a slight Democratic edge when redrawn, but Heck was able to beat Democratic challenger John Oceguera, former state Assembly speaker, by 7 percentage points in the 2012 election.

Nevada’s newest congressional district, the 4th, while encompassing a large swath of conservative rural counties, also includes a concentration of urban, largely Democratic, North Las Vegas. Steven Horsford, former Democratic leader in the state Senate, won by 8 percentage points over GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian.

Democrats statewide hold a 63,500 voter edge over Republicans, and the most recent registration numbers broken down by congressional districts show Democrats still hold a notable advantage in the 1st and 4th districts and a slight lead in the 3rd District while Republicans dominate the 2nd District.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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