New Mexico Senate committees advance two redistricting maps

by Andy Lyman, NM Political Report | December 10, 2021
6 min read
The Congressional redistricting map proposed by state Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) and state Representative Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque) is somewhat similar to the so-called "people's map," which was one of three options presented to the legislature by the Citizens Redistricting Committee. Source: NM Political Report

Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with the permission of the NM Political Report, a not-for-profit news organization focused on promoting a greater public understanding of politics and policy in the state of New Mexico.

Two New Mexico state Senate committees advanced two redistricting maps on Thursday, one for Congress and one for the state Senate. A New Mexico Senate bill that would redraw the state’s Congressional districts inched closer on Thursday to a full Senate vote after the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill on a 6-3 party-line vote. 

SB 1, sponsored by Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) and Representative Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), would make significant changes to the three Congressional districts by grouping much of northern New Mexico with a portion of the southeast part of the state. The bill also suggests including rural areas like Carrizozo with much of the urban Albuquerque area. But more rural areas of Albuquerque would be included in the southern Congressional district. 

The proposed map is similar to what is largely being referred to as the “people’s map,” which was backed by a coalition of progressive advocacy groups. Proponents of “the people’s map” have also added their support of SB 1, arguing that it would group together large populations of Hispanic and Latino voters.

During Thursday’s meeting, committee members heard public opposition to the map from a variety of different groups, including members from the New Mexico Acequia Association, who said they feared their collective voice would be lost if northern New Mexico was grouped with portions of southern New Mexico.   

“I hope that you will listen to the voices of us here and especially in northern New Mexico and throughout New Mexico about the changes, the drastic changes, that SB 1 will bring to [Congressional District] 3,” Yolanda Jaramillo with the Acequia Association said. “It will definitely take away the voice and representation of our traditional land-based Hispanic communities of northern New Mexico that are represented by a diverse population.”

Conroy Chino, a registered lobbyist representing the Pueblo of Acoma and Taos Pueblo, said the two pueblos are concerned about splitting up Native American voting numbers. 

“The tribes that I represent feel that will have an impact when it comes to their interests at the Congressional level,” Chino said. “They will have competing interests from where they sit in this state, with perhaps the southeastern part of the state.”

SB 1 proposes a map that was not one of the three maps that were recommended by the newly formed Citizen Redistricting Committee, as the “people’s map” was. One of the three recommended maps was deemed a “status quo” map that left the current districts mostly intact. Senator Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) asked Cervantes why he decided to draft a new map that had not been recommended by the independent committee, particularly the “status quo” map.  

Cervantes said he decided against using current districts as a starting point because they were decided on by a judge during the last two redistricting efforts and few changes have been made in more than two decades. 

“The reason that I rejected that relatively quickly is the status quo map is a reflection of our failure 10 years ago, to come to an agreement between the House, the Senate and the governor on a Congressional map,” Cervantes said. “In the end, we left here unable to come up with a Congressional map at all, and ultimately left that to the courts to decide. I think that’s probably the least desirous way to do redistricting.”

The result, Cervantes added, is an out-of-date map that may have not accurately represented voters for years. 

“So what we have here today, now 30 years later, is a map that’s based on just an effort to try and maintain status quo and that, of course, assumes that we got it right 20 years ago, 30 years ago.”

Moores said he was disappointed that none of the maps drawn by the Citizen Redistricting Committee made it to the legislature and said he hopes to address the issue when SB 1 goes to the full Senate for a vote. 

“I think the [Citizen Redistricting Committee] deserve that respect, the legislative process that we did deserves our respect,” Moores said. 

SB1 next goes to the Senate floor for a vote, before moving to the House. 


Later on Thursday, another Senate panel approved a map for its own members. 

The Senate Rules Committee approved a state Senate map proposal by a 7-3 vote, also along party lines. SB 2, sponsored by Senators Linda Lopez and Daniel Ivey-Soto, both Albuquerque Democrats, proposes a map that resembles portions of a concept recommended by the Citizen Redistricting Committee that creates three Native American-majority Senate districts.

While supported by several Native American groups, other members of the public said they were unhappy with the proposal and criticized the sponsors for not adopting a map proposed by the independent committee. 

Moores also restated his frustration that none of the maps from the redistricting committee were used verbatim. 

“It behooves us to tell the public and the CRC why their three maps weren’t even introduced and weren’t considered,” Moores said. “I think we need to know, the public needs to know, after going through that expense and exercise, why those three maps are just thrown out.”

Lopez told Moores that she did not reject the proposals from the redistricting committee, but instead used portions of all of them to come up with the SB 2 proposal. 

“There was nothing wrong with the maps, as the CRC adopted,” Lopez said. “In reviewing them and looking over them, I mean, any one of us has the purview in which to do so, as many other organizations have. It’s the basis of what has been used for the map that we have here that we’re discussing at this point in time.”

Moores ended his comments by saying that even though he didn’t like all of the maps recommended by the redistricting committee, he thought they were done in a “fair and honest” way compared to SB 2, which he described as “politics as usual.”

Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) later noted that SB 2 maintains almost 70 percent of one of the recommendations from the redistricting committee. 

“We looked at those CRC maps in great detail, chose the one that sort of fit better to what we thought, and 68 percent of this follows that map,” Stewart said. 

SB 2 next goes to the Senate Judiciary, which is largely made up of the same members as the Rules Committee. 

Both the Congressional and Senate map proposals will likely face lengthy debates as no Republican has expressed support for either map. Adding to the already clear partisan divide, Senator Jacob R. Candelaria of Albuquerque, who announced his departure from the Democratic Party on the first day of the special redistricting session, alleged that the proposed maps “deliberately dilute and gerrymander the westside of Albuquerque to preserve perceived partisan advantage for some members of the Democratic Party.”


Andy Lyman is an Albuquerque-based reporter. He has covered New Mexico’s legislative sessions for the New Mexico News Network and served as a reporter and host for numerous news outlets.

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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

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