After a whirlwind round of last-minute amendments, the New Mexico Redistricting Act cleared the state legislature today. With almost all of what was previously in SB15 amended into SB304, the broader election bill passed the Senate Floor by unanimous consent, in the final two hours of the 2021 Legislative Session.
The redistricting portions of the bill establish a cross-partisan, seven-member Citizens Redistricting Committee to gather public input and draft new voting boundaries for the legislature’s consideration. This change represents the first time in New Mexico’s history that the maps will be drafted by a group other than the legislature. This change will also expand the role of voters through multiple public meetings throughout the state.
Further, the bill establishes far more rigorous criteria for the development of those maps than New Mexico has ever had, including:
“Fundamentally, this bill – soon to be law – is ground-breaking for New Mexico,” said Ed Chavez, Redistricting Task Force co-chair and retired Chief Justice of the NM Supreme Court. “This will be the first time that a citizen group will drive the process instead of lawmakers. The public’s participation will help ensure that, in the long-term, voters have a fair and equal opportunity to select representatives of their choice.”
However, the bill does not include an allowance for split precincts, a reform that was particularly advocated by Navajo Nation. It is also weaker than similar legislation (HB211) that would have disallowed the legislature from amending the maps developed by the Citizens Redistricting Committee. Consequently, all eyes will be on the tribal inclusion reforms to determine how well indigenous communities of interest are preserved, as well as how closely lawmakers ultimately adhere to the new, less partisan, principals.
The reforms were advocated by a large, cross-partisan coalition of organizations and individuals that advanced the simple notion: “Voters should select their lawmakers; lawmakers should not select their constituents.”
Additional information is available at RedistrictNM.org. The bill now goes the governor for her signature.
Shortly after midnight, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted to approved Senate Bill 304 – Voting District Geographic Data sponsored by Senator Brenda G. McKenna, D-Bernalillo & Sandoval. The legislation absorbed some aspects ofSenate Bill 15 – Redistricting Committee (sponsored by Speaker of the House Representative Brian Egolf D-Santa Fe, and Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto D-Bernalillo) and other important recommendations from the New Mexico Redistricting Task Force.
In addition to establishing an independent redistricting commission, the legislation also addresses Native American concerns about inclusion, prohibits consideration of incumbency when drawing new maps, and limits the use of partisan data in the process. These are key amendments reformers called for.
SB304 will head to the New Mexico Senate for concurrence. Presuming that chamber approved the revisions made by the House, and by noon today, the legislation will head to the Office of Governor for review.
Many things happen in the final throws of the legislative session. At this point we are keeping an eye on Senate Bill 304 – Voting District Geographic Data sponsored by Senator Brenda G. McKenna (D-Bernalillo & Sandoval).
Based on insights from our lobbying team, there is a chance that the contents of SB15 are going to be folded into SB304 and heard on the House Floor. Of course, in the final moments of the legislative session, SB15 and SB304 could be heard separately.
We remain hopeful that the issue of redistricting will be heard sometime before the end of the session, Noon, Saturday, March 2021.
Senate Bill 15 – Redistricting Committee, sponsored by Speaker of the House Representative Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) and Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo) remains on the calendar to be heard for final passage by the House of Representatives. If passed and conferred by the Senate, SB15 would go to the Governor for review and hopeful signature.
The legislative session ends at Noon on Saturday, March 20.
But, what happens if no redistricting committee legislation is passed? That would be the worst possible scenario because it would mean gerrymandering and partisan politics are the rule of law. Any hope of an independent redistricting commission would be dashed.
The Legislative Council would appoint legislators to set the rules and oversee a process, with an unclear role of the citizenry and no limits on protection of incumbents. Incidentally, New Mexico is one of only two states in the nation that expressly, and without limitation, allows protection of incumbents in the redistricting process. Absent the reforms called for in SB15 or HB211, this year’s process could be more partisan and dividing than in 2012 – which resulted in multiple lawsuits of millions of dollars in taxpayer funded legal fees.
Encourage legislators to hear SB15. Don’t let the session run out without a redistricting bill.
House Bill 211 – Redistricting Act, sponsored by Representative Rebecca Dow (R- Grant, Hidalgo & Sierra) and Representative Natalie Figueroa (D-Bernalillo) passed through the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on a unanimous vote. There were no amendments and the bill now heads to the full house for consideration. If it passes the legislation would need to get through the Senate and to the Governor’s office by Noon on Saturday, March 20th.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 15, sponsored by Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo) and Speaker of the House Representative Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) is on the calendar to be heard for final passage by the House of Representatives. If the legislation passes, the Senate would need to concur to any amendments before it heads to the Governor’s office.
Redistricting reformers are still asking legislators to amend SB15 to: address Native American concerns about inclusion; require the legislature to hold redistricting discussions in open meetings; and, prohibit consideration of incumbency when drawing new maps.
House Bill 211 – Redistricting Act, sponsored by Representative Rebecca Dow (R- Grant, Hidalgo & Sierra) and Representative Natalie Figueroa (D-Bernalillo) is scheduled to be heard before members of the New Mexico House Appropriations and Finance Committee. The legislation reflects the intent of the New Mexico Redistricting Task Force. The House Judiciary Committee meets 11:30am, Tuesday, 3/16. Visit http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00293/harmony for a link to participate in the hearing.
Senate Bill 15, sponsored by Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo) and Speaker of the House Representative Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) is on the calendar to be heard for final passage by the House of Representatives.
Both Senate Bill 15, sponsored by Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo), and House Bill 211, sponsored by Representative Rebecca Dow (R- Grant, Hidalgo & Sierra) and Representative Natalie Figueroa (D-Bernalillo), were approved by members of the New Mexico House Judiciary Committee.
In a straw poll, the public attending the hearing had greater favorability of HB211 than SB15. HB211 will now head to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
An amended version of SB15 will head to the House Floor for deliberation. It has not been scheduled but could be heard as early as tomorrow. During the HJC Committee meeting, Representative Damon Ely offered amendments that were accepted and approved by the bill’s sponsor and committee. Amendments addressed greater inclusion when appointing members of the redistricting commission, clarification on the structure for public input, consideration of tribal boundaries, and various date adjustments. All of these items were consistent with recommendations from the New Mexico Redistricting Task Force.
Lawmakers did not, however, consider the full set of amendments to SB15 offered by reformers. Items not yet addressed in the legislation include prohibitions on incumbent protection and use of partisan data, allowing split precincts when needed to preserve communities of interest (an issue particularly affecting Navajo Nation), and accountability by lawmakers to document whether their amended maps adhere to redistricting criteria. Some of these items may be addressed through floor amendments.
The future of a New Mexico redistricting commission may be determined in the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow (Friday), 11:30am. Senate Bill 15, sponsored by Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo), and House Bill 211, sponsored by Representative Rebecca Dow (R- Grant, Hidalgo & Sierra) and Representative Natalie Figueroa (D-Bernalillo) are both scheduled to be heard tomorrow.
Key issues that need to be addressed includes current language in SB15 that disenfranchises Native American populations and Independent voters. (Additional details in this news release and this fact sheet on Native American concerns.)
Information is posted on how to participate in the House Judiciary Committee.
In advance of the House Judiciary Committee meeting, Retired Chief Judge of the New Mexico Court of Appeals the Honorable Roderick Kennedy issued this statement:
The New Mexico Redistricting Task Force made its cross-partisan recommendations after extensive study of best practices in redistricting. We were interested in fairness for everyone, regardless of party affiliation. HB211 contains those practices, where SB15 has left some out. We believe SB15 can be amended into a more fair bill that meets the needs of New Mexicans.
Specifically, if only precincts are considered as the building blocks of districts, Native American voters can see their communities divided in ways that limit their fair participation in elections. Much better information about real communities is available, and should be used.
Both bills call for independent committees to develop the new maps, rather than sitting lawmakers. However, SB15 allows lawmakers to amend the maps without even requiring them to explain why or explain how they met redistricting criteria. Under that bill, the legislature would not have to meet in open meetings under the Senate bill, either.
Last, there is no good reason to use information about the partisan makeup of districts or where an incumbent lives in the process of drawing a district, two old-school practices that the current version of SB15 fails to prohibit. Allowing those things lessens the legitimacy of the public’s need to have its voice heard and its votes counted.
At minimum, SB 15 should be amended to include these best practices for New Mexico, because the best is what we deserve.
The New Mexico Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 15 – Redistricting Committee. SB15 Sponsor Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo) made one amendment related to timing but didn’t allow any additional changes being recommended by members of the New Mexico Redistricting Task Force. According to a news release, the current legislation disenfranchises Native Americans and Independent voters. SB15 is now headed to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Related legislation, House Bill 211 sponsored by Representative Rebecca Dow (R- Grant, Hidalgo & Sierra), may be on the schedule to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee later this week.
RedistrictNM.org has created an online petition calling on the legislature to Amend SB15 to address many of the concerns raised by the New Mexico First Redistricting Task Force.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 15-Redistricting Act on a unanimous vote, spending nine minutes on the legislation (including public comments).
Several recommendations and concerns offered by the public addressed aspects of the original legislation (SB199) that didn’t make it into the current compromise version, SB15.
Dick Mason, Action Chair of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico, said, "We are grateful to the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing SB15, as well as for hearing our concerns about transparency and accountability. These issues will be important during the Fall Special Session when the Legislature will consider the redistricting maps recommended by the Citizen Redistricting Committee. We are hopeful our concerns will be addressed as SB15 moves forward."
Some of the key items that need to be addressed in the bill, recommended by the statewide New Mexico Redistricting Task Force, include:
The legislation’s next stop is for consideration by the full New Mexico Senate, hopefully over the next few days.