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.
A bill to draw new lines for state House districts statewide passed two committees on Wednesday and is now headed to the House floor.
On Wednesday evening, HB 8 passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 7-4, party-line vote.
During the hearing, a number of representatives of sovereign nations, pueblos and tribes expressed their unified support for the map put forward by Daymon Ely (D-Corrales).
“This has not been an easy process trying to reach a consensus among sovereign governments,” Pueblo of Acoma Governor Brian Vallo said.
He and others said that Native governments worked for months to find a preferred map that would allow for representation in the legislature. And others said that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated chronic undercounting during the 2020 census, which explained why some districts had a lower number of residents than other districts, particularly those in northwestern New Mexico.
Republicans on the House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee had expressed concern over the “deviation” of the different districts, or how much each district differs from the ideal equal population. The maps presented to the legislature by the Citizens Redistricting Committee sought to keep districts at a 10 percent deviation (so no district would have five percent more than the ideal population and no district would have five percent less).
The proposal passed that committee on a party-line 6-3 vote.
Republicans, meanwhile, criticized the bill and Republicans asked Brian Sanderoff, an expert witness on the bill and the president of Research & Polling, Inc., whether he considered the map to be a gerrymander. Sanderoff has participated in the redistricting process for decades in New Mexico.
“I don’t see any legal gerrymander from these maps as to how I know the law,” Sanderoff said.
Representative Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque) said in the House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee that five Republican women felt “targeted” by redistricting, mentioning Jane Powdrell-Culbert of Rio Rancho) specifically.
House Minority Leader James Townsend (R-Artesia) also brought up Powdrell-Culbert in the Judiciary Committee.