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NV Groups Praise Supreme Court Decision on Election Districts

Nevada voting advocates call Monday's Supreme Court decision on state voting districts "groundbreaking." (svanblar/iStockphoto)
Nevada voting advocates call Monday's Supreme Court decision on state voting districts "groundbreaking." (svanblar/iStockphoto)
April 5, 2016

LAS VEGAS - Voting-rights advocates are calling Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision "a huge victory for democracy," for keeping in place the system known as "one person, one vote."

In the case, Evenwel v. Abbott, the plaintiffs had argued that states should be required to draw legislative district lines using the number of registered voters, not the area's total population.

Amy Rose, legal director for American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada, argues that many groups of people who don't vote, including children, the undocumented, and people in prison, still deserve to be represented.

"It doesn't mean that they're not important human beings, and that all these people are members of our community, and we should care about their interests," says Rose.

Statistics show 28 percent of Nevadans are children and 7.6 percent are undocumented. They tend to be concentrated in urban areas, which would have meant new district boundaries with fewer state representatives, had the high court decision gone the other way.

Jenny Flanagan, vice president for state operations with the watchdog group Common Cause, says the U.S. Constitution spells out the use of population figures in the census to draw congressional districts and the court ruling confirmed it should be the same at the state level.

"Any attempt to reshape the redistricting process and excluding people who would be represented, distorts our democracy," Flanagan says. "And that's what would have been so troubling."

Legislative district population is also used to divvy up funding for public services like schools, police and roads.

Flanagan says using voter rolls instead of population numbers would grossly under-fund areas with high concentrations of nonvoters.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV