I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
New redistricting data shows big growth in 1st Congressional District
One of the biggest duties of the state legislature this year will be dealing with the decennial redistricting of congressional and legislative seats following last year’s U.S. Census.
The state legislature posted preliminary data on redistricting on its website today for congressional, state House, state Senate and Public Regulations Commission seats.
The data from the U.S. Census Bureau, compiled by Albuquerque-based polling outfit Research & Polling, Inc., shows that the most growth occurred in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District. Population in the 3rd District also increased while population in the 2nd District fell.
New Mexico’s 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts are currently held by Democrats Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, while the 2nd Congressional District is held by Republican Steve Pearce.
In state House districts, rural areas lost significant population while urban areas, especially the western portion of the Albuquerque metro area and the northeast portion of Las Cruces, grew in population.
The largest population drop came in state House District 28, represented by Dianne Miller Hamilton, R-Silver City, which lost 20.3 percent of its population. The district includes Sierra, Grant and Hidalgo Counties. The largest growth came in House District 29 on the west side of Albuquerque, represented by Thomas Anderson, R-Albuquerque. Population there increased just over 100 percent in the last ten years, according to the census.
The state Senate district that had the largest drop in population is the 35th district, held by John Arthur Smith, D-Deming. This district covers parts of Hidalgo, Luna and Sierra counties in southwest New Mexico.
On the other end of the spectrum, Senate District 23 held by Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, grew by 73 percent. It covers parts of Bernalillo and Sandoval counties in the Albuquerque metro area.
The state legislature will take up the issue of redistricting later this year. In the past, the process has been complex.
The Santa Fe Reporter looked at the history of redistricting in the state and found it rife with bitter battles and litigation.
Historically, New Mexico’s redistricting process has been a litigious one. Since the 1960s, all but one of New Mexico’s redistricting plans ended up in court, sometimes with such fervent disagreement that the courts themselves had to impose redistricting plans.
“New Mexico has had, unfortunately, some pretty infamous-looking districts,” [Research & Polling president Brian] Sanderoff says. In 1981, he says, “The New Mexico Legislature applied some very creative techniques, and there were numerous lawsuits, millions of dollars of litigation, which the Legislature kept losing.”
In 1981, a federal court ruled that the state’s plan violated the Voting Rights Act. As a result, New Mexico was placed in preclearance, a designation requiring that future redistricting plans first be approved by the US Department of Justice.
In 1991, after the DOJ pre-approved (and requested revisions to) New Mexico’s redistricting proposal, the state’s plan went into effect without litigation and, by 2001, New Mexico was again free to implement its own redistricting plans without the DOJ’s involvement.
That freedom led to a bitter partisan struggle.
In 2001, despite several months of public hearings around the state and a special legislative session in September to formulate and approve redistricting plans, then-Gov. [Gary] Johnson’s vetoes left New Mexico without any redistricting plans for the state House and Senate or congressional districts.
The situation this year is similar to 2001. Democrats have majorities in the House and Senate, albeit a small advantage in the House, and a Republican sits in the governor’s mansion. Johnson vetoed a number of the proposals put forth by the legislature that year before the case eventually went to the courts.
After public hearings on the plans throughout the summer, the legislature will likely hold a special session in the fall to vote on the redistricting plans. If all goes well, the plan should be signed by Gov. Susana Martinez in January of next year.
If not, the plan could once again head back to the courts.
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