Redistricting session to start Monday

Formally announcing the session dates at the last minute lets lawmakers keep fundraising

By: - December 1, 2021 5:00 am

Front View of the New Mexico State Capitol Building in the city of Santa Fe. (Photo Getty Images)

The special legislative session re-drawing New Mexico’s political maps will begin Monday, Dec. 6, said Sen. Mimi Stewart, the Senate’s president pro tempore. 

Stewart told Source New Mexico that there’s been no formal announcement yet about the session as a “courtesy” to legislators who are fundraising. A state law effective in January 2020 prohibits lawmakers from fundraising the moment the governor issues a proclamation announcing the session. 

Stewart expects Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to announce the session Thursday. 

“The governor has not made the formal decision yet, because as soon as she does that, then no one can raise any money,” Stewart said. “So she gives everyone a break with fundraising and does the call at the last minute.”

Austin Weahkee, a member of a tribal coalition with keen interest in the redistricting process, said he and his group have have been left in the dark in recent weeks about next steps. He worked with the state’s 19 Pueblos to agree on proposed maps that would reflect Native Americans’ voting power in the state and their population growth here over the last decade. 

Tribal coalition left in the dark as redistricting nears, member says

“We worked so hard to get to a consensus, and now we don’t know where we’re at,” Weahkee said. “We’re been sort of in limbo for the past, like, basically month and a half or so with what the plans are.”

Stewart said she has always been open about the fact that the session will begin Monday, Dec. 6, adding that it’s been widely reported in recent weeks. A review of recent news reports shows two mentions of the “expected” Dec. 6 session.

A working group representing local Pueblos drew up maps for the consideration of the nonpartisan Citizen Redistricting Committee, a newly formed seven-member group that heard hours of public and expert testimony on where political boundaries are under-serving residents. 

Some of the resulting recommendations that the Legislature will consider largely meet the tribal coalition’s priorities, Weahkee said, but others don’t. Lawmakers have the final say on which maps to adopt, and they could even introduce maps produced outside of the committee’s process. 

Stewart said the session will begin next week with a close look at the committee’s maps, and she’s unaware of any outside maps to be introduced on the Senate side. She said she supports what she’s seen so far in terms of tribal priorities for political districts in Northwestern New Mexico, but she needs more information.

“Probably each the House and the Senate will both introduce a map that is based on the CRC map, but that may have just a few changes,” she said.

She said she’s already identified changes the Senate will need to make to committee maps in cases where two legislators are drawn into the same district, forcing those senators to either quit or run against each other.

For example, the proposed committee map for Albuquerque has Sen. Bill O’Neill’s house in Sen. Katy Duhigg’s district. Stewart said they’ll have to find a way to fix that. 

“There’s plenty of solutions,” Stewart said. “You can just go in and do a little bit of redrawing of some of the lines.”

But she said the Legislature will do its best to honor the committee and the tribal maps. 

“There are just some great things that they’ve done, and so we will try to follow those maps and minimize the changes,” she said. 

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Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard. Along the way, he's won several state and national awards for his reporting, including for an exposé on a cult-like Alcoholics Anonymous group and a feature on an Upstate New York militia member who died of COVID-19. He's thrilled to be back home in New Mexico, where he works to tell stories that resonate and make an impact.

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