What We Are Currently Doing About Gerrymandering

by John House

RepresentUs New Mexico is part of a 19-organization coalition led by Fair Districts New Mexico that is pushing for redistricting reform in New Mexico. Member organizations include the League of Women Voters New Mexico, Common Cause New Mexico, Indivisible Santa Fe, Retake Our Democracy and New Mexico First. In the 2020 short legislative session, the coalition supported HM 8, sponsored by Rep. Daymon Ely (D-Albuquerque), which would have created a redistricting task force to study and propose rules and regulations to modernize and depoliticize the redistricting process. Although the measure failed, the coalition was reassured by House Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Dist. 23) that he would support the establishment of a redistricting task force this year by the Legislative Council. When that failed to materialize, the Thornburg Foundation of Santa Fe, New Mexico, asked and provided the funding to New Mexico First to create the redistricting task force, undertake the study and provide recommendations. That work has just begun. Upon completion of the work of the task force, RepresentUs New Mexico members and volunteers will campaign for the legislature to adopt proper criteria that will not only comply with the U.S. Constitution and other applicable law but also eliminate the drawing of district lines to purposefully, or unintentionally, favor a political party or incumbent candidate.

On Tuesday evening, February 22, Retake our Democracy hosted a Zoom webinar that included a panel composed of Dick Mason and Kathleen Burke of Fair Districts New Mexico and state Senators Gerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Dist.12) and Mike Moores (R-Dist. 21). I found the event very informative and interesting, as I’m sure those of you who attended did too. To me, the most insightful revelation about the political aspect of redistricting in the New Mexico legislature was provided by Republican Senator Matt Moores. Moores said that, in the NM legislature, the gerrymandering of districts was not so much a Democratic-vs.-Republican struggle as the effort of those with the most power in the legislature seeking to influence the redistricting process to preserve and enhance their own power and those of their caucuses. Regardless, the undemocratic result is the same—the topsy-turvy effect of our elected officials choosing their voters rather than the voters choosing their elected officials.

John House is a retired attorney from Los Angeles, CA, who moved to Santa Fe in 2007. He is President of RepresentUs New Mexico.