The Democratic Party of New Mexico’s current official platform includes the following: “End gerrymandering by creating and giving authority to an independent non-partisan redistricting commission, separate from the legislative process, that will prevent the drawing of political boundaries favoring one party over another or favoring incumbents.”
Well. Unless a single Republican remains in elected office, apparently.
The Democratic legislative caucus could not have made it any clearer how little they regard New Mexico voters this month. As of this writing, state House, state Senate, and State Public Education Commission maps are still awaiting final votes. The Congressional map has cleared both chambers, however, and it is both an abomination and an insult to voters in all three districts.
For full transparency, I will again disclose that I served on the Redistricting Task Force that helped shape the legislation that resulted in the creation of the Citizens Redistricting Committee (CRC), and that the CRC hired my firm to perform community outreach and advertise public meetings. This gave me a ringside seat to the efforts of the CRC, and I can share with you how we got here.
The bill creating the CRC was passed with poor grace and some difficult caveats. The CRC was kneecapped from the beginning with the provision that the Legislature did not have to use any of the maps proposed by the CRC. The committee was further crippled by not being able start its work until July 1 and having a minuscule budget.
Despite these challenges, the CRC held 15 public meetings in 10 weeks, with more than 2,000 participants statewide. Public comment was painstakingly documented—by the chairman (retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ed Chávez, who happened to preside over the 2011 redistricting lawsuits), as there was no budget for staff. A website was quickly built and in addition to the in-person public meetings (which were also accessible by Zoom), voters could also visit the website to submit testimony directly and even draw and submit their own maps. Over 300 community organizations and leaders were engaged to participate. It was a superhuman effort.
As a result of the committee’s dedicated efforts, maps were submitted to the Legislature on time. The maps created by the CRC did not consider historical partisan voting data or incumbents; they were based solely on the equal division of population, geography, and communities of interest.
In addition to the maps drawn by the CRC, the committee also submitted a map submitted from the public: the so-called “People’s Map” redrawing our Congressional districts created by the Center for Civic Policy. The People’s Map received a great deal of verbal and written public support. Because the CRC’s charter required them to incorporate public comment into its maps, the CRC voted to include the People’s Map.
Everything the CRC did was painstakingly transparent to the taxpayers. This all came to a screeching halt once the maps hit the Legislature. The Senate Democrats, not having the guts to gerrymander in the public eye, took the People’s Map into secret caucus (not a public committee hearing) and transformed it the into zoning nightmare that passed last Saturday as Senate Bill 1.
If this map is adopted (read on for why it won’t—spoiler alert: it will be expensive), both Albuquerque and Roswell will be split into three Congressional districts. This is nuts. The sole reason for such a map to exist is to ensure the Second Congressional District has a worse chance of having a Republican representing it in 2022.
The future state House and PEC maps may pass the Senate this week, but state Senate plans remain in gridlock as Senate leadership tries to keep post-redistricting lawsuits to a minimum. Proposed Senate districts as tinkered with either pair Republican incumbents into the same district, or ignore detailed discussions held with Native American communities. Either choice may drive one aggrieved party into court.
But back to the stupid Congressional map in SB 1. That map will definitely wind up in court. And here’s why it’s so stupid: The first judge the case appears before is going to look for an equitable solution, say for a map drawn by a former state Supreme Court Chief Justice who adjudicated the last round of redistricting lawsuits. That will become the final map, and we taxpayers will pay the lawyers’ fees.
Every Democrat in the Legislature voted for SB 1. When they come knocking on your door in the next election, or fill your inbox with fundraising requests, remember that they forgot completely about you, the voter, in their mad dash for more power. Ask them why they think they are more important than us. Ask them why voting for a map that would surely be overturned in court was a good use of their time and our money. Ask them if their own party’s platform means anything to them or if they support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. And then ask them why you should vote for them.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appears regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. A Republican, she lives amicably with her Democratic husband north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.