NM redraws political maps and alliances

SANTA FE, NM (AP) – Political boundaries are being redrawn by the Democrat-led New Mexico legislature in a sparsely populated state where Hispanics and Native Americans make up about six in ten residents.

The Legislative Assembly meets at noon Monday to forge new district boundaries for three congressional districts and 112 seats in the state Legislature, as well as a Public Education Commission that oversees charter schools .

The process will reshape a congressional swing district in southern New Mexico that came under Republican control in 2020.

Republicans need a net gain of just five seats to take control of the United States House and effectively freeze President Joe Biden’s agenda on climate change, the economy, and other issues.

In New Mexico, for the first time in 30 years, Democrats will control both the governor’s office and the legislature during the redistribution, with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham vetoing the process.

Advocates for ethnic and racial minorities are pushing forward a plan that would divide voters in the conservative southeast corner of the state into three congressional districts. The State Republican Party has denounced the plan as gerrymandering.

“I think we have different definitions of communities of interest and fair representation,” said Oriana Sandoval, CEO of the Center for Civic Policy which is pushing for a 2nd District overhaul that would guarantee Latinos a 55% share of the population. of voting age. “What we have heard from our members in the current status quo does not give fair representation to this part of the state.”

New Mexico is one of several states, including Indiana, that have used a citizens’ advisory council to temper political inclinations without removing redistributing powers from state lawmakers. Judges might end up using advisory cards to resolve redistribution lawsuits.

The New Mexico Redistribution Committee reviewed the cards in a series of town halls across the state and approved three options each for Congress, State House, and State Senate. Lawmakers can adopt, modify or remove these maps.

“Changes are inevitable, but at the same time honor the work they have done,” said Senator Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque. The three cards recommended for the State Senate would pair O’Neill with a fellow Democrat in the next election.

He doesn’t expect Democratic lawmakers to assert their advantage to preserve or expand power.

“We’re in New Mexico, we’re better,” O’Neill said. “We have a tradition of collaboration. “

States must redraw their congressional districts every 10 years to reflect new population numbers.

New Mexico presents unusual challenges in efforts to comply with U.S. voting rights law, preserve communities of interest, and give minority voters a fair chance to elect the candidates they want.

Almost 48% of the state’s residents claim Hispanic ancestry – the highest part of the country. The share of New Mexico residents who identify as Native by race or ancestry combined is 12.4%.

The state is home to 23 federally recognized tribes, whose growing political weight is reflected in the election of Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, to Congress in 2016 and his promotion this year to Home Secretary. .

The governor also opened the special legislative session in December to new spending proposals of about $ 1 billion for federal pandemic assistance.

Morgan Lee, Associated Press

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