A bill to put the question of creation of an Independent Redistricting Commission in New Mexico on the 2024 ballot died Monday in the New Mexico House Judiciary Committee on a 10-1 vote. Multiple lawmakers voiced their viewpoint that the legislature should retain authority to draw its own district lines. Advocates for the bill offered extensive testimony, arguing for the bill’s passage and presenting survey data that 77% of likely N.M. voters want an independent redistricting commission and that the Legislature should let voters decide.
Representatives Natalie Figueroa (D-ABQ) and Jason Harper (R-Rio Rancho) presented a compelling case for an independent redistricting commission. They were joined in their presentation by Robert Rhatigan, a member of the 2021 advisory Citizen Redistricting Committee and Heather Balas, Vice President of the Election Reformers Network.
“We are very disappointed,” said Dick Mason of Fair Districts for New Mexico, “What we saw yesterday in the House Judiciary Committee was bipartisanship, but NOT the kind advocates of democracy seek. Both the Republicans and Democrats members of the committee came together to protect their own power.; Despite legitimate concerns about partisan gerrymandering, redistricting in New Mexico has been primarily about incumbency protection for legislators of both major parties.”
Despite the committee’s vote to oppose the bill, there was no opposition from the public. Instead, the following organizations offered testimony in support of HJR1: Adelante Progressive Caucus ; Retake our Democracy; American Association of University Women; Election Reformers Network; Fair Districts New Mexico; League of Women Voters of New Mexico; Lutheran Advocacy Ministries; New Mexico Council of Churches; National Organization for Women; New Mexico First Redistricting Task Force; Progressive Democrats of America – Central New Mexico and Vecinos United
Other organizations contacted Committee members in advance of the hearing to support HJR1
“Data from multiple other states with Independent Redistricting Commissions objectively demonstrate that, when voting boundaries are drawn by these independent groups, the maps are less biased and more reflective of communities, than when drawn by legislatures,” said Heather Balas of the national research organization Election Reformers Network. “Given the rising degree of polarization and distrust by voters in the election system, New Mexico and other states must take action to advance proven reforms to make our system more fair.”
A repeating concern by advocates across the country is the inherent conflict of interest for legislators to draw their own district lines and Congressional boundaries that are often seen to advance the majority parties and/or protect incumbents. These concerns were repeated voiced by New Mexico advocates.
Kathleen Burke of Fair Districts for New Mexico, a coalition of over 40 organizations that supported HJR1, said Fair Districts will work with bill sponsors and advocates to reintroduce the bill in the 2024 session.
For Immediate release
February 21, 2023
Contact: Dick Mason
The proposed legislation to establish an Independent Redistricting Committee, HJR-1, received a "Do Pass" vote from the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee (HGEAC) in Santa Fe. This vote enables the draft constitutional amendment to move to the House Judiciary Committee, which must also approve it before it can move to the House Floor.
The bill's bipartisan co-sponsors, Rep. Natalie Figueroa and Rep. Jason Harper, each spoke for the bill, along with advocates from many organizations statewide. Additionally, Jeremy Farris of the State Ethics Commission and Heather Balas of the Election Reformers Network provided context as expert witnesses.
Advocates are urged to call and thank members of HGEAC and also House Judiciary members, urging them to approve the bill when it comes to them.
Jason Harper Becomes Co-Sponsor of HJR-1
Republican House member Jason Harper joined Democrat Natalie Figueroa in sponsoring House Joint Resolution 1, aiming to create an Independent Redistricting Commission in New Mexico.
The bill, which would call for a Constitutional Amendment and ultimately approval by voters, will be heard later this month in the NM House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.
NM Rep. Natalie Figueroa again advanced the cause of independent redistricting in New Mexico by sponsoring legislation. Her bill, HJR-1, would amend the state constitution to create an Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC).
Key aspects of the bill include:
House Joint Resolution 9 (HJR9) Constitutional Amendment for an Independent Redistricting Commission passed House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee on February 9 on a 5-4 vote. The HJR is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee but will likely not make it to the floor and then over to the Senate before the regular 30-day legislative session adjourns later this week.
RedistrictNM would like to thank Representative Natalie Figueroa (D-Bernalillo) and Representative Daymon Ely (D-Bernalillo & Sandoval) for sponsoring the legislation. We’d also like to thank Chairwoman Georgene Louis, Representatives Doreen Gallegos, Wonda Johnson and Kristina Ortez for voting to support fair districts in New Mexico. Our appreciation goes to Judge Roderick Kennedy, Jeremy Farris of the New Mexico State Ethics Commission and Heather Balas of the Election Reformers Network for their insights and testimonies at committee hearings.
“Given the lateness in the session and the heavy load of legislation remaining we don’t expect HJR9 to receive its next hearing which would have been House Judiciary,” said Fair Districts for New Mexico. “Our goals in this session were to get HJR9 passed in at least one committee and to get a read on what legislators liked and did not like in the resolution. With your help we accomplished those goals.”
RedistrictNM would also like to thank all our supporters, those who signed the petition and those who have followed us throughout this process. Updates will continue leading into the 2022 interim legislative committee meetings and the 2023 session.