Sunday, October 1, 2023

New Mexico’s Redistricting Lawsuit – Still A Lot at Stake


It’s August, 2023 and we still don’t know what our congressional districts will look like for the 2024 election. We can thank the Democratic supermajority in the Legislature for crossing the line and gerrymandering the 2nd Congressional District beyond recognition.

This week, an amicus brief was filed by a consortium including election reform groups, redistricting experts and a retired chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. The brief, supporting no political party, provided detailed research and data regarding the CD2 map as adopted by the Legislature and the fairness test ordered by the State Supreme Court.

The fairness test is quite simple: first, does the map intend to entrench one party’s power by diluting the votes of the other party; second, is the map successful; finally, do the mapmakers have any legitimate and nonpartisan justification for their adjustments.

The Citizens Redistricting Committee (for whom I worked, in full disclosure) accomplished a herculean task against almost insurmountable odds. You see, the Democratic leadership in the Legislature didn’t really want a CRC. So they gave the CRC the shortest possible window to complete its work, and a minuscule budget. Nevertheless, the CRC held meetings all over the state, engaged thousands of voters for input and retained experts to draw maps meeting federal guidelines for fairness and equality.

The CRC also submitted to the Legislature the controversial “People’s Map” introduced by the far-left Center for Civic Policy. The reason behind the submission was the large number of people who came to public meetings and offered support for the map. The CRC’s charter included incorporating public input into their maps.

The People’s Map was a bad map that divided towns in CD2 and apportioned them among all three districts. A key caveat in the legislation in the legislation creating the CRC was that the legislature could revise the maps submitted by the CRC or create maps of its own. For congressional districts, the legislature opted to take a bad map and make it worse.

We know the outcome. Eastern and southern cities were divided. Chaves County was split among three districts. Bernalillo County was also split into three different districts. The clear goal was to ensure Congresswoman Yvette Herrell would lose her seat. She did, by a razor-thin margin. The Republican Party of New Mexico filed a lawsuit to throw out the map. The Supreme Court has directed the Fifth District Court to rule on the suit by October 1.

I am not a lawyer, much less a judge, but here are some highlights from the amicus brief filed August 14:

The parties submitting the amicus brief ran a computer simulation comparing 1,000 different possible maps to calculate probable election outcomes dating back to the 2016 election. 91% of the maps resulted in two Democratic Congressional representatives, one Republican. Only 8% of the possible maps resulted in three Democratic representatives. In other words, you had to really try to find a map that would give you that result.

The enacted map, if in place in every election since 2016, had a 100% probability in ensuring every Congressional seat would be Democratic. It would seem if the intent was to dilute Republican votes in CD2, the effort was successful.

Potential nonpartisan justifications to be considered include enhancing competition, uniting communities of interest and balancing urban and rural numbers. Arguments can be made for and against each of these justifications, as CD2 has flipped several times in the last two decades, the goal of uniting Barelas and South Valley Hispanic communities with those in Roswell and Hobbs is undefined, and the merits of urban and rural number adjustments could be outweighed by partisan purposes in diluting rural votes with urban ones.

Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, New Mexicans deserve to choose their elected officials. Under our current system, our legislators are choosing their voters through blatant gerrymandering. Please support an independent redistricting commission when the legislation comes before the Legislature in coming sessions.

Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appears regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. A Republican, she lives amicably with her Democratic husband north of I-40 where they run one head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at


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