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.