If you don’t think Democrats believe in gerrymandering, consider Nevada.
Gov. Steve Sisolak said he would call a special session that starts Friday afternoon. On the agenda is redrawing Nevada’s congressional and legislative district lines. This week, legislative Democrats released their proposed maps. Democrats control both houses, and Sisolak is a Democrat.
The national mainstream media have spent months complaining about Republican gerrymandering efforts in red states. These maps show, however, that Democrats are just as eager to draw lines for their own political advantage.
Start with the congressional maps. Nevada has four congressional districts, with CD1, CD3 and CD4 covering Southern Nevada. Rep. Dina Titus represents CD1, which is currently a compact rectangular district covering the heart of the Las Vegas Valley. Its lines are logical. It’s urban, which explains its +23.6 Democrat registration advantage. Registration in CD3, which includes suburbs such as Henderson and Summerlin, favors Democrats by only 1.9 points.
Those districts make sense geographically but not politically. Democrats want to split those urban Democrat voters between CD1 and CD3. The proposed CD1 would combine the Strip with Henderson and Boulder City. The new CD3 would include much of the urban area west of Interstate 15 and Summerlin.
CD1 would become a +13.1 Democrat district. CD3 would become a +8.2 Democrat district.
In the short term, Titus has the most to lose. A +13 seat should be safe most years. But after what happened in Virginia, 2022 isn’t shaping up to be most years. She’s governed as an extreme liberal, including co-sponsoring “Medicare for All.” If Republicans fielded a strong candidate, they could take the seat next year. Ties to Henderson and Boulder City would help.
One wonders if ambitious legislative Democrats wouldn’t mind Titus losing in 2022. That would allow one of them to run in 2024. Another oddity is that Titus endorsed Sisolak during his contested 2018 primary. So much for loyalty.
Democrats currently have a 4.2 percentage-point lead in statewide voter registration, 34.3 to 30.1. Their proposed state Senate map has Democrat majorities in 15 of the 21 seats. Nine of those are “safe” seats, meaning they have majorities greater than 10 percentage points. Four more seats have Democrat voter registration edges of between 6 and 10 points.
In the Assembly, 29 of the 42 seats have Democrat majorities. Democrats have 21 safe seats. Republicans have 10 safe seats. If these maps go through, it’s likely Democrats will have supermajorities in both houses at some point during the decade. Hello tax hikes.
Gerrymandering can turn a 4.2 percentage-point registration advantage into two-thirds legislative majorities.
Yes, this is unseemly. Yes, it’s politicians putting their own political interests above what makes the most sense for voters. Yes, some gerrymandering is so blatant it justifies judicial intervention. But be wary of anyone claiming to oppose it on principle, unless they’re actively supporting an alternative process.
What’s happening in Nevada is a reminder that almost every politician supports gerrymandering — when they’re in power.