Redistricting: All over the map
As the next election inches steadily closer, some significant changes to district boundaries due to population growth could have notable impact not only on Democratic candidates, but also on the influence of minority groups in the election.
Assemblyman Skip Daly has been particularly affected by redistricting. This year, as a result of shifting district boundaries, as many as 85 percent of his constituents may be new. Though this poses some challenge, Daly said he does not intend to alter his campaigning methods.
“We’re going to run the campaign very similar to what we did before,” he said. “I’m not a person who likes to mess with success. Voters are people, and I believe you have to take the message to the people, and if you communicate your message effectively, you’ll be successful in your campaign.”
Nevada was the fasted-growing state in the United States for many years. In 2010, it was announced that Nevada’s population growth had earned us an additional U.S. House seat. After a battle between the Nevada Legislature and Gov. Brian Sandoval, a state court judge drew up new boundary lines for the four seats.
A key factor in Nevada’s population growth and subsequent redistricting is the expansion of the Hispanic community in the state. According to the last U.S. Census report, people of Hispanic or Latino origin made up about 26 percent of Nevada’s population in 2010.
Las Vegas, Reno and Washoe County are actually considered “minority majority” areas. This essentially means that the population is less than 50 percent white, and it is a weird concept in itself, in a “Wow, look at all the minorities! I’m the only majority here!” kind of way.
Nonetheless, about half of the population growth in Nevada can be attributed to Hispanic growth. And this growth in number signifies greater political power.
Much of the debate over the redistricting involved whether Nevada should include a “minority majority” congressional district. Some leaders speculated that concentrating these voters in one area would limit their influence rather than expand it.
And, yes, expansion of these voters’ influence is what we should be expecting. Nevada is an exciting state with lots of growth and change in recent years, and a lot of that comes from flourishing non-white communities.
Nevada’s Hispanic population is known to vote mostly but certainly not exclusively Democratic. Splitting the population up into different districts rather than concentrating it in only one would, theoretically, make all four districts a bit more difficult to predict, leaving all four seats up in the air.
And, although the redistricting makes this particular election all the more unpredictable, many have already composed optimistic theories of its outcome.
“I think the redistricting overall—statewide, coming from the congressional districts on down—is going to be beneficial to Democrats,” Daly said. “I mean, two districts are solid Democrat, and another one is competitive. My prediction is that there will be three Democratic congressional representatives after the next election. And it’s a similar situation for the Senate and for the Assembly. … I know the numbers have changed recently a little bit, but they’re still very solid. I think the Legislature will be controlled by Democrats in both houses.”
Of course, there is no obvious way to determine how the redistricting will influence this election, or how the votes of Nevada’s Hispanic populations will play into that. The most important thing that can be done now is for Democrats to look ahead, register new voters and reach out to those who find themselves in a new district.
Daly put it well in an adage he first heard from former governor and U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan:
“There’s only two ways to run: unopposed or scared,” he said. “You run like you might lose. You run, you run hard, you run scared, and you don’t ever look back.”