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.
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) 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 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 House Judiciary Committee has HB211 Redistricting Act on the calendar for 3/4/21. The bill's lead sponsors are Representative Rebecca Dow and Representative Natalie Figueroa. Additional cosponsors include Representative Kelly K. Fajardo, Representative Joy Garratt, and Representative Georgene Louis.
The legislation wass shaped by insights from the New Mexico Registering Task Force.
Learn more about HB211.
Watch the hearing and signup to provide public comment.
In Senate Rules Committee today, a committee substitute bill was introduced that combined Senate Bill 199 (SB199) and Senate Bill 15 (SB15). SB199 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Bernalillo) and Senator Mark Moores R-Bernalillo) and SB 15 is sponsored by Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (-Bernalillo). The three lawmakers, all of whom have a strong track record in support of good governance, worked together on the new language – which passed with approval from Republicans and Democrats.
Senator Ivey-Soto created a committee substitute bill that calls for establishment of a cross-partisan citizens redistricting commission. The commission would use criteria, considerably more rigorous than what was used a decade ago, and recommend maps to the legislature.
The committee substitute, which passed on a unanimous 10-0 vote and now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee, potentially the full Senate and then to the House of Representatives.