Newspaper column: Should each county get a single state senator?


Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea is the District 19 incumbent and was not up for re-election this year.

The blue Clark County tail wagged the red Nevada dog in this past week’s election.

Election results show rural and urban Nevada are of two vastly different states of mind.

For example, in the race for the U.S. Senate, Democrat Jacky Rosen carried only Clark and Washoe counties, while Republican incumbent Dean Heller won every other county handily. In the more heavily unionized, redistribution-favoring and thus Democrat-leaning Clark and Washoe, Rosen gleaned 55 and 50 percent of the votes, respectively. Whereas, for example, in Elko County Heller netted 76 percent of the vote, 72 percent in White Pine, 79 percent in Lincoln, 75 percent in Esmeralda, 63 percent in Storey, 72 percent in Churchill, 79 percent in Lincoln and a whopping 84 percent in tiny Eureka. Quite a spectrum shift.

The state’s only Republican representative in Washington now will be Mark Amodei, whose 2nd Congressional District covers the northern half of the state and excludes Clark. Amodei won in every county and his Democratic opponent only came within spitting distance in Washoe and Carson City. Amodei took Elko with 80 percent of the vote, Humboldt with 79 percent and Lander with 82 percent, for example.

Republican Cresent Hardy won in every county in the 4th Congressional District in the southern half of the state except Clark, while the other two Congressional Districts are solely in Clark and were easily won by Democrats.

Democrat Steven Horsford won the 4th District seat by pulling 52 percent of the total vote by netting 56 percent in the more populous Clark. Hardy netted 73 percent of White Pine’s votes, 80 percent of Lincoln’s votes, 74 percent of Lyon’s, 57 percent of Mineral’s and 65 percent of Lyon’s.

In the statewide races for constitutional offices the numbers broke down largely the same.

In the race for governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak won handily in Clark and eked out a victory in Washoe, while Republican Adam Laxalt won almost every other county by at least 2-to-1. The results were similar in the race for lieutenant governor.

Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske edged out 30-year-old inexperienced Democrat Nelson Araujo by less than 1 percentage point, though she won handily in ever county except, you guessed it, Clark.

In the race for attorney general, Republican Wes Duncan won in every county, repeat after me, except Clark. Likewise for Republican treasurer candidate Bob Beers, while incumbent Republican Controller Ron Knecht lost only in Clark and Washoe. Again, in mosts cases the margins in rural counties exceeded 2-to-1 for the Republican.

The Democrats in the state Assembly are all from Clark and Washoe. The rest of the state picked Republicans. Due to the overwhelming population of Clark and Washoe, there is now a supermajority of Democrats — 29 out of 42.

The state Senate is also all red except for Clark and Washoe. The 13 Democrats to eight Republicans leaves the Democrats one seat short of a supermajority. That could happen if a planned recount changes the outcome in a district in Clark in which the Republican won by 28 ballots.

It takes a supermajority in both the Assembly and Senate to pass tax increases, thanks to an initiative pushed through by former Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Now, if the Democrats can wail about how unfair it is that the 2016 presidential election was determined by the Electoral College — in which each state gets a vote for each representative in Congress, which is determined by population, and each state gets two votes for each senator no matter population — and not by popular vote, which, yes, Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump won, it seems only fair that we be allowed to deign to suggest that Nevada could change its governing bodies to more closing match the federal system created by the Founders.

We could have an Assembly in which representatives are seated from districts of approximately equal population and a state Senate with a single representative from each county. The whole purpose of the U.S. Senate is to assure smaller states are not run over roughshod by more populous states.

So why should the smaller Nevada counties with differing philosophies and priorities and issues be virtually shut out of the decision making process?

Of course, the chances of that ever happening is almost certainly nil. So, consider this a wee Jeremiadic cry from the desert and a whisper in the ears of the near-supermajority to give some slack for the smaller rural counties. Seems only fair. And we know Democrats are sticklers for fairness.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Historic update from Wikipedia:

In 1919 the Senate started a practice called “Little Federalism,” where each county received one member of the Nevada Senate regardless of population of said county. This set the Senate membership at seventeen which lasted until 1965-1967. The Supreme Court of the United States issued the opinion in Baker v. Carr in 1962 which found that the redistricting of state legislative districts are not a political questions, and thus is justiciable by the federal courts. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Reynolds v. Sims and struck down state senate inequality, basing their decision on the principle of “one person, one vote.” With those two cases being decided on a national level, Nevada Assemblywoman Flora Dungan and Las Vegas resident Clare W. Woodbury, M.D. filed suit in 1965 with the Nevada District Court arguing that Nevada’s Senate districts violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and lacked of fair representation and proportional districts. At the time, less than 8 percent of the population of the State of Nevada controlled more than 50 percent of the Senate. The District Court found that both the Senate and the Assembly apportionment laws were “invidiously discriminatory, being based upon no constitutionally valid policy.[7]” It was ordered that Governor Grant Sawyer call a Special Session to submit a constitutionally valid reapportionment plan.[8] The 11th Special Session lasted from October 25, 1965 through November 13, 1965 and a plan was adopted to increase the size of the Senate from 17 to 20.

16 comments on “Newspaper column: Should each county get a single state senator?

  1. Timothy Fichter says:

    I like your suggestion, Thomas. Tim

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Anonymous says:


    The right gets blown out. The people have spoken. The right wants to change the rules.

    Maybe they could propose a constitutional amendment making those people in Clark (and any other place democrats mingle) worth only 3/5’s of a person?

    Hey, worked once right?

  3. The left wants to end the Electoral College … typical.

  4. Steve says:

    Tyranny of the majority in action.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Trump is the left now?

    “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.

    8:45 PM – 6 Nov 2012”

  6. Anonymous says:

    Are you denying that Trump has, in nearly every action he has taken since his electoral victory, been a conservatives wet dream come true?

    I mean, I sure have been waiting for SOME criticism of his actions from the guys on the right (and since for me, that means you guy here) but what I’ve got so far is crickets or maybe a couple “I don’t really like the way he talks) followed up closely with “but his actions I can’t take any issue with”.

    Now you’re going to disavow him? I figured it would take some major catastrophe like an email to Putin saying “please bomb California (and Clark County) and we’ll ignore it” before the right would give up on this guy and claim that he was some liberal, neocon, globalist.

    But, I’ve been wrong before.

  7. Trump is a waterbug, darting all over the place. Tax cuts good, trade war bad, etc., etc.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Conservative judges, deregulation, “tough” on Iran, move US Embassy in Israel, cut off Palestinians, build that wall, do away with DACA, destroy as much of EPA as he can, attack people that kneel for the national anthem, attack institutions of higher learning, doing as much damage to Education Dept. as he can, Reverse land use policies in Interior Dept., do whatever possible to reverse ObamaCare, bring back coal, make Europe pay, attack China, launch effort to “uncover” “voter fraud”, attacking the “liberal press”, attacking “the deep state”, and more.

    All, conservative wet dreams come true. Doing that which no conservative, and I mean NO conservative would even dare, much less just executive order their way into “doing”.

    I know you guys had to do the Texas 2 step on W. after years of support, but already moving on from this guy? Heck, he’s still appointing judges, he’s still attacking the press, he’s still trying to stop anyone from coming into the country, except from maybe Norway, he’s still got BIG plans for Medicare and Social Security that you can bet you’ll be in favor of, this is going to be the “best” conservative president of your life…for as long as he can last, I can’t believe you’d disavow him now.

    Other than maybe the fact that he hated the Electoral College before he benefited by it.

  9. Rincon says:

    Students must abide by the will of people with jobs and retirees. People with children under 18 are outnumbered by those without. LGBTQ’s are outnumbered by heteros. Black people have been outnumbered by whites for centuries. So tell me, what is so special about those living in rural areas that they, of all minorities, need special voting privileges?

  10. because they are the only ones with common sense.

  11. Steve says:

    “I know you guys had to do the Texas 2 step on W. after years of support, but already moving on from this guy?”

    Bullshit. Thomas Mitchell didn’t vote for Trump, I didn’t. Many conservatively minded people didn’t vote Trump and still don’t “support” the guy. Only when he actually does things we like do we defend the actions.

    And, along comes another defender of Majority Tyranny.

  12. Bill says:

    Your sermon is not wasted and you are preaching to the choir as far as I am concerned Thomas.

    The so-called Rurals, a term often used in derision and condescension, who live and work in the majority of the large land mass called Nevada, have many different concerns and issues than many of their urban counterparts in Washoe and Clark County. To cite but one example, the plan for draining the water from the rural counties to quench the insatiable thirst of Clark County.

    Without some parity in representation, as suggested by your posting, we need to worry about the concern attributed to Ben Franklin that “democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for lunch”.

    It has been my observation that our Legislature has increasingly been less conscious of the needs of the entire State. Just an observation and my personal opinion.

    As far as Trump is concerned, I like some of his policies and others I do not. I have never cared much for his personality.
    But, he is the President, and on balance, I like what he is doing and find it a far more palatable choice than what was offered by his opposition. I find the obsessive dislike of him by the media to be bordering on psychosis and it is simply a fact that the media bias is obvious and provable.

    Since we are approaching the holiday season, I will not call anyone names or question their ancestry nor deal in invective. I have resolved for the balance of the year to not talk or write of politics. Instead, through Thanksgiving and through Christmas, I shall attempt to treat everyone with fairness and kindness. God Bless All.

  13. Rincon says:

    What a blast from the past. When I was growing up, I remember my uncles saying that women and people of color had no common sense either. I’m sure some of them felt that people from those groups should each have 3/5 of a vote. But it’s all fair. After all, we city folk enjoy our redneck jokes.

  14. Deleted says:

    Rincon Thomas Jefferson felt the same way about blacks; maybe that’s why the arch “constitutionalists” here still bow to those “ideals”.

  15. Steve says:

    And there it is again, applying modern social norms to centuries old historic realities.

    The apple is not an orange.

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