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.