In 2019, Nevadans Count, a coalition of 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, was created to help raise awareness and provide updates about the 2020 Census to Nevadans. Nevadans Count also identified the redistricting process as a key priority. Nevadans Count believes that our democracy works best and its outcomes are most just when the voices of ALL Nevadans are heard.
Every ten years the federal government conducts a census, or a count, of the entire U.S. population. This is done for two reasons and the impact lasts for 10 years. The first reason is to determine how much federal funding our communities will receive. The second reason is to determine each state’s number of representatives.
As populations change and move across the country and within states, the Census Bureau collects data to reflect the change and shift in population. In 2010, Nevada had an undercount of about 24%. This means that nearly one-fourth of Nevadans were not counted, resulting in Nevada receiving less federal funding. The population did grow enough to grant Nevada a fourth congressional district.
Last year, Nevadans Count encouraged ALL Nevada residents to respond to the 2020 Census. Although Nevada was not projected to gain a fifth congressional district, Nevadans Count wanted to ensure that our communities received the federal funding they deserved. Additionally, Nevadans Count created a 2020 Census Guide, to help the coalition partners better understand the census.
What is redistricting?
Redistricting is the process of redrawing electoral district boundaries. Redistricting will determine how local school boards, city council, state legislative, and congressional districts are drawn.
Like the census, everyone counts in redistricting. We do not exclude people based on citizenship or age. This rule is referred to as “one-person, one-vote,” and it means each district should have roughly equal populations. As populations change and move across the country and within states, districts become uneven. That is why every 10 years, the government does a census and why census data is used for redistricting.
Why is it important?
How district boundaries are drawn influences who runs for public office and who is elected. Elected officials make decisions that are important to our daily lives, from ensuring safe schools to providing health resources to adopting immigration policies. Who lives in a district can influence whether elected officials feel obligated to respond to a community’s needs. The district boundaries are in place for the next ten years, and their policy impacts can last well beyond that.
Why should my community be involved?
Nevada’s demographics have greatly changed in the last 10 years, becoming much more diverse. Based on the 2020 Census, Nevada’s total population increased by 15%, which was the fifth largest percent increase in the country.
Redistricting has been used at times to exclude communities from political power. By participating in and monitoring the upcoming redistricting process, communities have the opportunity to help define their elected representative’s boundaries, elect candidates of their choice, and voice their needs and interests. Because district boundaries are drawn every ten years, this process has long-term effects on community representation.
Who is in charge of redistricting?
In Nevada, the Nevada State Legislature is responsible for drawing state legislative districts, congressional districts, and Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents in 2021. Local and county governments are responsible for redistricting their own districts in 2021.
When is redistricting taking place?
The Nevada State Legislature is waiting for the Census Bureau to release redistricting data, expected as early as August 16, 2021. The redistricting data has the demographic information at the census block level (a small geographic area about the size of a city block). Once the legislature has this data, it can begin to develop new districts.
One-Person, One-Vote: #1 rule in redistricting! This rule means districts should have roughly equal populations.
Community of Interest (COI): A community of interest is a self-defined community, neighborhood, or group of people who have common concerns and traits, and they would benefit from staying together in a single district.
Gerrymandering: Intentionally manipulating district lines to create an advantage for a candidate, party, or groups of people. The graphic can help better understand and explain.
Packing and Cracking: “Packing” and “Cracking” are the most common ways that gerrymandering occurs. “Packing” refers to putting racial, ethnic, or partisan voters into as few districts as possible to minimize their voting power. “Cracking” refers to splitting racial, ethnic, or partisan voters into small portions so that they are not a majority anywhere. Packing and cracking can be used at the same time to over concentrate a group in one district, while spreading the remaining members of the group across several districts where they consistently lose.
(Each map has 10 yellow circles and 10 green circles. This means there should be 2 yellow districts and 2 green districts. If you wanted to gerrymander the green circles, you could “crack” or spread the green circles across three districts, where they do not make a majority. If you wanted to gerrymander the yellow circles, you could “pack” one district with all yellow circles.)
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA): Prohibits redistricting plans that dilute the power of a person’s vote due to their race or ethnicity. A map violates this law if a racial or ethnic group (e.g., Native American or Latinx) have less opportunity to elect representatives of their choice than other groups of voters do. In order for this rule to apply, the racial or ethnic group must be relatively geographically compact, generally support the same candidates, and have enough people to be a majority in at least one district. When considering whether it is possible to draw a “majority-minority district,” (this is how the courts refer to the districts) determine the percentage of people of voting age who are of the racial or ethnic group, not just the overall population of the racial or ethnic group in the district.
Section 5 of the VRA: Required states with long histories of racial discrimination to submit changes to their election laws, including redistricting, to the federal government for review to ensure the changes would not have a racially disproportionate effect. Known as “preclearance,” the Supreme Court struck it down in 2013. This will be the first redistricting cycle in 50 years that does not require states to submit redistricting changes to the Department of Justice.
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