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.