Vote Nevada Update 11/26/2021

Vote Nevada Supporters,

A lawsuit was filed on November 17th to challenge the congressional and legislative redistricting maps. 

You can read about it here: https://vote-nevada.news/redistricting-lawsuit

And you can read about it and view the lawsuit at the bottom here: https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/gop-assemblyman-files-lawsuit-challenging-democrats-redistricting-plan

Assemblyman Greg Hafen and one of his Pahrump constituents, John Koenig, are the plaintiffs.  The complaint asks for the maps to be enjoined, so, not to be used for the 2022 election cycle, arguing both sets of maps violate the U.S. and Nevada constitutions.  Both plaintiffs claim to have been denied equal protection of the laws and the right to fair representation.  The complaint also challenges the constitutionality of the process used to pass the maps into law.

On the process, the lawsuit points to the fast nature of the special legislative session, which often gave legislators and the public less than 24 hours to respond to the maps, and to the fact that questions about how the maps were drawn went unanswered.  No one in the majority party or the Legislative Counsel Bureau could answer questions about the variables used to draw the maps.  

Specifically, the plaintiffs object to Nye County being divided into three assembly districts and to dividing Pahrump into two assembly districts, with Assembly District 36 now encompassing parts of rural Pahrump and parts of urban Clark County.  The lawsuit argues that these two geographic areas share little to nothing in common, which purposefully dilutes the voting power of rural, Pahrump residents.

The plaintiffs reference the court-appointed special masters who drew the 2011 redistricting maps and were required to adhere to much stricter standards and criteria to protect the right to fair representation than the legislature required of itself when drawing the 2021 maps. The lawsuit states that no justification was given for not following the court-mandated standards and criteria from 2011 for the 2021 redistricting process.

The lawsuit’s first claim for relief is under the Nevada Constitution.  The brief cites specific sections of the Nevada Constitution that establish a right to equal treatment and protection for every Nevadan, including a right to due process before a right or protection can be withdrawn or withheld.  It also cites the new Voter Bill of Rights, added to the Nevada constitution in 2020, which establishes that all voters must have equal access to election processes.

The lawsuit’s second claim for relief is under the U.S. Constitution. The brief cites the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment and the due process clause of the 5th amendment to assert that all persons living under the U.S. Constitution must be treated equally during elections.

The lawsuit’s third claim for relief is under the Nevada Constitution’s freedom of speech and freedom of assembly clauses. Article 1, section 10, of the Nevada Constitution, states, “The people shall have the right freely to assemble together to consult for the common good, to instruct their representatives and to petition the Legislature for redress of Grievances.”  The brief argues that by splitting Assembly District 33 between rural Pahrump and urban Clark County, the voices of rural Republican and Independent voters will be less effective.

The lawsuit further claims that the congressional and legislative maps as a whole were drawn to dilute the votes of Republican and Independent voters, thereby denying both groups the ability to benefit from fair representation. The speech of these Nevadans, according to the lawsuit, will be less effective in electing candidates and advocating for certain political positions.  

The lawsuit argues that Republican and Independent voters were packed and cracked to dilute their votes and weaken their voices.  It states that no other rationale has been given for the way Republican and Independent voters were distributed among the legislative and congressional districts. (You can review packing and cracking in this short video: https://youtu.be/YcUDBgYodIE). 

The document ends with a request that the redistricting maps be redrawn to comply with all federal and state redistricting criteria.

It will be interesting to see whether the state district court uses our new Voter Bill of Rights, in the Nevada Constitution, similarly to how the federal courts use the Voting Rights Act.  In cases of racial gerrymandering, plaintiffs can petition in federal court for relief arguing vote dilution due to members of a racial group either being packed or cracked in one or more districts. 

This is important because, in the past, voters could also file in federal court to petition for help in cases of partisan gerrymandering (gerrymandering to advantage one political party over another).  But, in 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rucho v. Common Cause that partisan gerrymandering cases must now only be brought in state court under state constitutions and laws. This is why the case against our redistricting maps was filed in state district court. 

If Judge Russel finds that Nevadans can claim a right to fair representation under the Voter Bill of Rights in state court based on criteria other than race, this case may establish a mechanism for limiting partisan gerrymandering in future redistricting cycles through litigation.

I will send out additional information as it becomes available.

Thank you for being Nevadans with me,

Sondra

Vote Nevada: Solving Problems with Civics

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Vote Nevada is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit civic engagement organization.  Anyone can become a supporter by emailing info@vote-nevada.org, we have no membership dues.  We do, however, accept donations Here

 

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