Southeast New Mexico lawmakers said maps which redraw district lines and which are being considered by the state legislature this week in a special session amounted to a power grab.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called lawmakers to a special session Dec. 6 to review proposed federal and state legislative districts maps redrawn based on the 2020 Census and created by the 2021 New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee (CRC), which was was created by the New Mexico Legislature during the regular 60-day session earlier this year. The committee called for input from across New Mexico to restructure federal and state legislative maps.
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“A fundamental part of our American democracy is ensuring that all voters are represented, and the redistricting effort will make sure that the right of all New Mexicans to vote is complemented by fair representation through their elected officials,” said Lujan Grisham in a news release.
“I look forward to a productive and collegial session and know lawmakers and legislative leadership will as always carry out the people’s business thoughtfully and respectfully, in a way that honors this important work.”
But at a gathering of lawmakers in Artesia Dec. 1, several southern New Mexico lawmakers expressed concern that the proposed changes to districts would disenfranchise rural New Mexicans in the state’s conservative southeast corner.
New Mexico Rep. Candy Spence Ezell (R-58) said at that meeting that the proposed maps added pressure to communities outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
“I’m just afraid the ultimate goal of the northern part of the State is to silence the voice of rural New Mexico,” she said.
Ezell, Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-55), Rep. Jim Townsend (R-54) and Sen. Gay Kernan (R-42) were also in attendance at that meeting.
“Ten years ago we lost a particular seat that was moved from this area, southeastern New Mexico to Albuquerque and if this trend continues there will be no representation from the rural areas of our state and that really gives me great concern,” Ezell said.
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Kernan said Dec. 1 that redistricting is challenging and this year Democrats hold the upper hand in New Mexico controlling the state legislature and governorship.
Kernan said the Albuquerque-based marketing and public opinion research company Research and Polling would assist with drawing up the maps alongside the CRC.
“Maps will be presented to the Rules Committee in each house. The Senate will draw the Senator map, the House the House map and the congressional districts will be done jointly,” said Kernan.
“It would not be surprising to see Republicans packed into seats that are strong Republican seats. Each House will vote on whether to accept or reject the maps approved in committee,” she said.
CRC had plenty of input
“Since the creation of the Citizen Redistricting Committee we continued our involvement by encouraging an open and transparent process throughout the entire meetings of the Citizens Redistricting Committee and of course advocated for fair maps,” said Mario Jimenez III, campaign director of Common Cause New Mexico.
He said Common Cause was an organization advocating for good government.
“Common Cause was not involved in any drawing or crafting of specific maps. But simply advocated that any of the maps created are created based on community input, communities of interest and ultimately making sure that all of the maps that are submitted to the Legislature for consideration are drawn as fair districts,” said Jimenez.
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He said Common Cause viewed all maps submitted to the Legislature as fair, as stated by the CRC’s final report.
“There were a number of key elements that were looked at to make sure there were in face non-partisan as far as setting them up for review and ultimately coming back and stating that all of the maps submitted are fair maps,” Jimenez said.
He said Common Cause encouraged transparency during the special session.
“Drawing maps is a difficult thing to do and to understand. I am not certain that all public comment was presented by individuals who actually lived in the area of the hearing,” Kernan said.
“I do not think any of the maps drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Committee will be adopted. They may form a framework, but changes will be made,” she said.
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Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.