SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s time to redraw the lines. Every ten years, the state goes through redistricting – drawing the boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts. But this time around, New Mexico is taking a whole new approach. In the past, only state lawmakers were in charge of redistricting. But this year, to prevent any accusations of gerrymandering, an independent committee has been created and they’re inviting the public to help determine who votes where.
The first of several redistricting meetings across the state this month just kicked off. And leading the discussion is the newly formed Citizen Redistricting Committee. Each member was appointed by top state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle or by the State Ethics Commission. Retired Supreme Court Justice Edward Chavez is the committee chairman.
“What that means is every ten years and the year ending in one, the U.S. Census Bureau issues official population data,” said the Honorable Edward Chavez. “It’s not only how many people live in our state but where they live and other demographic data.”
These boundaries have a huge impact on what congressional or state legislative districts look like and who represents you. The CRC is not only looking at the new census data, but they’ll also consider what’s important to each community, its history, and they want to hear from people living there.
“There’s ways to actually submit a map of a particular district, you could submit a map for the whole state,” said the CRC Community Liaison, Lilly Irvin-Vitela. On the CRC’s website, there is a tool that can show you where the boundaries currently stand. And it gives you the chance to redraw the lines in a way you think would best serve that area or the state.
“If it was just like ‘hey, I just felt like playing with the software,’ there was no thinking behind it. It would probably be an outlier in terms of qualitative data and so, of course, the demographers – the committee members – are going to be looking at trends,” said Irvin-Vitela. “And when they’re outliers, seeing if there is an analysis behind that, is there anything unique, deep perspective.”
Most importantly, the CRC wants to get as much public input as possible. “Think about it this way,” said the Honorable Mr. Chavez. “A representative cannot be effective if they are representing a district built on competing communities of interest.”
The CRC will take public input then present their proposed maps to lawmakers. Lawmakers will then hold a special session and make a final decision. New Mexico’s current districts were drawn in 2012 by a district court after former Governor Susana Martinez (R- New Mexico) vetoed the plans from the legislature.