New committee seeks public opinion on redistribution of political constituencies
SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) – Time to redraw the lines. Every ten years, the state does a realignment – drawing the boundaries of the legislative districts of Congress and the state. But this time around, New Mexico takes a whole new approach. In the past, only state legislators were responsible for redistribution. But this year, to avoid accusations of gerrymandering, an independent committee has been formed and is calling on the public to help determine who votes where.
The first of several redistribution meetings across the state this month has just started. And at the head of the discussion is the newly formed Citizen Redistribution Committee. Each member was nominated by key state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle or by the state ethics commission. Retired Supreme Court Justice Edward Chavez is the chairman of the committee.
“What this means is that every ten years and the year ending in a, the US Census Bureau releases official demographic data,” said the Honorable Edward Chavez. “It’s not just the number of people who live in our state, but also where they live and other demographics. “
These boundaries have a huge impact on the appearance of congressional or state legislative districts and on who you represent. CRC is not only looking at new census data, but it will also look at what is important to each community, its history, and they want to hear from the people who live there.
“There are ways to submit a map of a particular district, you can submit a map for the entire state,” said Lilly Irvin-Vitela, CRC community liaison officer. On the CRC website there is a tool that can show you where the limits are right now. And that gives you the flexibility to redraw the lines in a way that you think would best serve that area or state.
“If it was just like ‘hey, I just wanted to play with the software,’ there was no thought behind it. That would probably be an outlier in terms of qualitative data and so, of course, the demographers – the committee members – are going to be looking at trends, ”Irvin-Vitela said. “And when it’s outliers, see if there’s any analysis behind it, is there something unique and deep perspective.”
More importantly, CRC wants to get as much public comment as possible. “Think of it this way,” said the Honorable Mr. Chavez. “A representative cannot be effective if he represents a neighborhood built on competing communities of interest.”
CRC will gather public comment and then present its proposed maps to lawmakers. Lawmakers will then hold a special session and make a final decision. New Mexico’s current districts were mapped out in 2012 by a district court after former Governor Susana Martinez (R-New Mexico) vetoed plans in the legislature.