Coloring outside the lines

With The Legislature ending a week ago, it is tempting to think we can all go on a little mini-break from politics. (I know I could use one!) But it turns out, Nevada may be in its biggest fight, yet. I’m talking about redistricting. Because Democrats and Republicans were deadlocked on an agreement on new district maps (Nevada gained a congressional seat in the last Census), the issue is now going to be decided by the courts. And this is a really big deal.

I know. I know. Redistricting sounds about as sexy as going to the dentist, but believe me, it matters. A lot.

After all, this means Nevada is not only picking up a brand new seat in Congress, it also means that the lines that define virtually all the districts in the state are about to change. And depending on who gets their way, the changes could be mean dramatic differences in who gets elected. Redistricting can protect incumbents or screw them, depending on who is drawing the lines. But worse than that, it can really screw the most marginalized segments of our population — including women.

And we don’t have to look far to see the possibilities: Nevada Republicans want to put the majority of Hispanic voters in one congressional district. But putting all of one segment of the population into one district only serves to marginalize their voice. Case in point: Hispanics tend to vote Democrat. If all of their votes are put in one district, then that removes that Democratic threat from the other three districts, making them safer for Republicans. But in addition to that, it means that the Hispanic community gets less overall representation — one member of Congress to voice their concerns. And that just serves to further fracture our community as a whole. It’s not Hispanics (or blacks, or women, or gays, or…) versus everyone else. We all share the issues that mark the deterioration of our state and communities. We all care about run-down schools, poverty, lack of jobs, falling home prices, etc.

Need another reason to care? If you live in the rurals, you might end up getting represented by someone who lives in a major urban area, or vice versa. One proposed congressional map draws a sort of half-moon from Henderson, up through deeply rural parts of central and northern Nevada. How can my representative understand the issues of my neighborhood if s/he lives in Elko? And they can be asking the same question in reverse. We have a diverse state with diverse needs. But we all deserve equal representation.

And what about the women? Well, women tend to vote for Democrats, so our voice — and our issues — are at stake as the lines are redrawn. Right now the only member of Congress we have that is good on progressive issues including pay equity, prochoice, pro-equality and more is Rep. Shelley Berkley. As the new lines are drawn, how will that effect her seat? And how will that effect the other seats? Will they become more Republican-controlled, further eroding our voice on important issues? Will they become more balanced and give us a shot at getting a champion for women in office? If Republicans win this redistricting battle, women could lose big time.

This one is going to be a nail-biter. Whether you realize it or not, we all have something at stake on this one.

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