Editor’s Note: This story is reposted with the permission of Source NM, a new online resource for fresh reporting, insightful opinion and analysis from around the state.
Members of the public will get their first look this week at maps that could become the new political boundaries in New Mexico.
How those boundaries are drawn plays a large role in how political power is distributed. When politicians shape the districts so one party always has the advantage, that’s gerrymandering. Redistricting fights in the state legislature got ugly in the past, and they’ve resulted in lawsuits, like 10 years ago when people sued the state, accusing officials of diluting “minority voting strength, and denial of equal protection of the laws.”
The maps coming out in 2021 are concepts produced by staff of the newly created Citizen Redistricting Commission in response to weeks of public meetings across the state and online. Around 1,200 people weighed in virtually and in person during those meetings, according to a news release.
The citizen-led commission is still deciding what maps to propose to the state legislature, which has the final say in how the state and federal political districts in New Mexico are carved up. The commission will hold a meeting tomorrow from 3 to 7 p.m. via Zoom to get public input on which concept maps should be selected for further consideration.
Scroll through the concept maps from the Citizen Redistricting Committee.
The once-a-decade redistricting process comes after the 2020 census, which found population increases here near the Permian Basin and in urban areas. The state was one of the slowest-growing in the West, having increased its population by just 2.8 percent in the last decade, according to census figures.
The state legislature this year tasked a seven-member citizen committee to hold public input sessions on how best to draw lines through the state in light of demographic shifts and to ensure that every vote is counted equally throughout New Mexico.
The commission has scheduled nine more public meetings before it proposes its final recommendations to the legislature. It will adopt its final recommendations at a meeting on Oct. 15, according to the commission’s website.
Those who wish to weigh in on the redistricting process can attend meetings in person or virtually, or they can comment on the commission’s website: NMRedistricting.org. The meetings taking place closest to Sierra County are:
Las Cruces: Monday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m. at New Mexico State University, Corbett Student Union Building, Senate Gallery
Silver City: Monday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m. at Western New Mexico University, Global Resource Center Auditorium.