New redistricting group created slate of fair maps, but will lawmakers listen?

By: - December 6, 2021 2:29 pm

(Getty Images)

State legislators today are considering a slate of proposed political maps produced by a nonpartisan committee after many public meetings this year. But whether lawmakers will do more than just consider the maps remains to be seen.

Legislation creating the Citizen Redistricting Committee does not require lawmakers to adopt any of the recommendations from the new committee, which was devised to remove partisanship from the once-a-decade redistricting process. 

Instead, the law creating the panel just requires that the group submit maps for the Legislature’s “consideration,” in the same manner that an interim legislative committee recommends legislation to the House or Senate.

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Isaac De Luna, a spokesperson for the Center for Civic Policy, said it’s a concern that, after all the committee’s painstaking work on producing independent maps, lawmakers will just introduce and then approve maps of their own. 

“There is obviously that possibility, where because of how the process is structured, that the Legislature does not have to adopt or follow any of the recommendations of the Citizens Redistricting Committee,” De Luna said this morning. “But that is why our work is so important, right? For the last six months, we’ve been ensuring that there is public pressure.”

The Center for Civic Policy proposed a congressional map that the citizen committee ultimately adopted for one of its recommendations to the Legislature. That map aimed to create a Hispanic majority in the 2nd Congressional District and, in doing so, included a swath of southeastern New Mexico in a district that contains Santa Fe. 

The group met since July around the state, hearing from numerous members of the public and interest groups. The seven-member panel’s makeup was intended to not be over-represented with one political party and to not include recent lobbyists or public officials. 

The committee submitted three maps of congressional districts, three state House of Representatives maps and three state Senate maps. The maps were drawn, in consultation with experts hired by the panel, to have roughly similar populations while keeping intact communities and neighborhoods within the state. The maps have been evaluated for lack of partisanship by an independent expert. 

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Both chambers of the Legislature will adopt maps during the special session that began at noon today, and Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham can veto them. 

Sen. Mimi Stewart, the Senate’s president pro tem, has said the Senate will look closely at the maps produced by the committee, but she has already identified changes her chamber will likely make. The Senate will need to tweak maps where two legislators are drawn into the same district, forcing those senators to either quit or run against each other, Stewart said. 

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 has said. “You can just go in and do a little bit of redrawing of some of the lines.”

That means lawmakers could alter districts for a decade based on where elected officials live right now. 

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.

The process for reviewing each map has not yet been adopted by either chamber.

Lawmakers are also simultaneously trying to figure out where to spend about $1.1 billion in federal money passed through the American Rescue Plan Act during this session. 

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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.