COMMITTEE ON REAPPORTIONMENT AND REDISTRICTING

(S.C.R. 1, File No. 95, Statutes of Nevada 1999)

 

 

Background Information

 

The 1999 Nevada Legislature created an interim study committee on reapportionment and redistricting in anticipation of the 2000 Decennial Census.  This committee consists of eight members—four from the Senate and four from the Assembly.  The members embody the leadership of each party in each house and represent legislative districts in Clark County, Washoe County, and the rural counties.  The committee operates under the Legislative Commission and is responsible to study and make recommendations to the 2001 Session concerning the requirements for reapportionment and redistricting in Nevada.

 

During the 2001 Session, the Nevada Legislature is responsible to redraw the districts of a number of elected officers, based on the results of the 2000 census and the “one person, one vote” principle.  This will be a time-consuming and controversial project for the Legislature, since the resulting districts will be in effect for a ten-year period.  The Legislature must redraw the districts of the members of the Legislature.  There currently are 21 Senators and 42 Assembly members, but the 2001 Legislature may change those numbers as long as the total number of members does not exceed 75 and the Assembly is from two to three times larger than the Senate.  The Legislature also must redraw the districts of the State Board of Education and the University of Nevada’s Board of Regents.  Currently, these bodies each have 11 members.  Nevada will have adequate population to gain a third congressional seat for the first time in our state’s history.  The Legislature must divide the state’s population exactly into thirds for these three members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

Key Issues

 

Among other things, the interim study committee has been advised by staff of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, the U.S. Census Bureau, and other expert witnesses that:

 

         The detailed census information for each Nevada county, all the way down to the precinct and block level, will not be released to the state until sometime in March 2001.  This leaves the Legislature with only about ten weeks—until June 4, 2001—within which to reapportion and redistrict the state and complete all of its other business.

 

         Based on current projections of the Nevada state demographer, Nevada’s population as of the year 2000 is just over 2 million (1.2 million in 1990).  While all parts of the state are expected to show growth, Clark County’s has been the greatest.  It is estimated that nearly 1.4 million of the projected 2 million Nevadans live in Clark County, which is approximately 68.5 percent of the state total.  (In 1990, Clark County represented 61.7 percent of the state total.)

 

         Currently 13 of the 21 Senators and 26 of the 42 members of the Assembly represent districts in Clark County.  If legislative seats are not added next session, Clark County will gain 1.5 Senate districts and 3 Assembly districts.  Of course, this will cause a loss of 1.5 Senate districts and 3 Assembly districts in northern and rural Nevada.

 

         If the Legislature decides to retain the existing number of legislative districts in northern and rural Nevada (8 Senate districts and 16 Assembly districts), the Legislature would have to be expanded to the full 75 members (25 Senators and 50 Assemblymen).  This approach would result in four new Senate districts and eight new Assembly districts, all in Clark County.

 

         Alternatively, the Legislature could decide to expand its size to a point somewhere between the current composition (63 members) and the maximum possible (75 members).  For example, if the Legislature expanded to 70 members (23 Senators and 47 Assembly members), Clark County would gain three new Senate districts and six districts in the Assembly.  This would result in a net loss of approximately one Senate district and one Assembly district in northern and rural Nevada.

 

         When the Legislature last redistricted in 1991, the average population in a single-member Senate district was 57,230.  The average Assembly district population was half that number:  28,615.  Depending on the number of seats selected for each house, when the Legislature redistricts the state next year, the average Assembly district will range in size from 40,000 (50‑member option) to 48,000 (42-member option), with each Senate district between 80,000 (25-member option) and 96,000 (21-member option).

 

Committee Proceedings

 

At its first meeting, David A. Byerman, Chief Government Liaison for Nevada, U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau (Census Bureau), presented information concerning the importance to Nevada of obtaining a complete and accurate count of all Nevadans at the next census, which was April 1, 2000.  Staff of the Research, Legal, and Administrative Divisions of the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) presented current, historical, and projected information and statistics concerning the activities of the Nevada Legislature and the Census Bureau on the census, reapportionment, and redistricting.  The committee approved a staff proposal to reinitiate a “redistricting newsletter” up to and immediately following the 2001 Legislative Session.  The committee also authorized continued use of Digital Engineering Corporation’s AutoBound software for the redistricting needs of the 2001 Legislature.  This software program has been used by LCB staff for the Phase 2 mapping in cooperation with the Census Bureau. 

 

The committee held its second meeting on January 19, 2000, and received reports concerning the 2000 decennial census from Secretary of State Dean Heller and representatives of the Census Bureau, Nevada’s congressional delegation, and regional committees in Nevada promoting the census.  The committee approved sending a generic letter to the Interim Finance Committee supporting, in concept, the Secretary of State’s proposal for funding of a media campaign to promote Census 2000.  Staff of the Legislative Counsel Bureau also presented information to the committee concerning:  (1) the geographic dispersion of tax revenues based on population; (2) geographical considerations on the distribution and number of legislators; (3) Phase 2 of the Census Bureau’s Voting District Project; and (4) staff and office space recommendations for redistricting in 2001.  Further, the committee approved the staff recommendation that two computer workstations be purchased and installed by March 2000 for the Legislative Building in Carson City and the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas.  These workstations will allow legislators and others to become familiar with redistricting computers, printers, and software.

 

A third meeting of the committee was held on May 3, 2000.  Secretary of State Dean Heller and Mr. Byerman of the Census Bureau reported that Nevada was second to only one other state concerning improvement in Census response rate from 1990 to 2000 and that field enumerators were at work throughout the state to count those people who did not respond initially to the Census questionnaires.  Staff of the LCB reported that the Phase 2 Voting District Project was on schedule and that the redistricting workstations were ready for training programs.  A comprehensive overview of legal principles, constitutional and statutory provisions, and court decisions relating to redistricting and reapportionment was presented by Scott G. Wasserman, Chief Deputy Legislative Counsel, Legal Division, LCB.  The committee provided direction to staff concerning a redraft of proposed redistricting rules for the 2001 Session, including reference to the reporting of race data in accordance to Bulletin No. 00-02 of the federal Office of Management and Budget.  The leaders of each party of both houses in the Legislature, all of whom serve on the committee, approved the concept of placing redistricting workstations in each of the four leadership suites (such as in caucus conference rooms) for the 2001 Session.  Staff of the Research Division and Information Systems Unit of LCB distributed map atlases of the various current legislative districts and projections of current population in each district.  The committee directed staff, after certain refinements are completed, to distribute this information to each member of the Legislature.  The committee also agreed that it should continue to meet after the September 1, 2000, deadline, which applies to other study committees of the Legislative Commission.  Finally, public testimony from residents of the Pahrump, Nevada, area indicated a greater tie with Clark County than with rural parts of Nevada to the north.  

 

The committee’s fourth meeting was held on September 29, 2000.  The committee received a comprehensive report on Census 2000 from Marshall Turner, Jr., Chief of the Census 2000 Redistricting Data Office, U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Washington, D.C.  Mr. Turner informed the Committee that the tabulations of Census 2000 are on schedule and that Nevada should receive detailed census information sometime in March 2001.  He noted that Nevada has been placed in the first tier of states to receive this data based on the Legislature’s request for priority status because of the 120-day session.  Further, Mr. Turner reported that the final decision of the Census Bureau concerning the release to all states of adjusted population counts, in addition to the unadjusted counts, will not be made until late February 2001.  The committee also reviewed technology for displaying redistricting plans in caucus and committee rooms, received testimony by staff on multimember legislative districts, and reviewed possible time lines for the 2001 Session.  Further, testimony given by representatives of the NAACP, Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, Inc., the Nevada Indian Commission, and the Washoe Tribal Council focused on the need for the 2001 Legislature to communicate with racial minority groups during redistricting efforts.  They also requested that cohesive communities of these racial groups not be improperly fractured during redistricting.  The committee asked that statewide voting statistics for the 1996 and 2000 Presidential contests and the U.S. Senate contests of 1998 and 2000, be included in the redistricting database.  Finally, the committee adopted general rules for redistricting that will be recommended to the 2001 Legislature.