NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Is the newly re-drawn congressional district map for New Mexico legal, or is it a case of gerrymandering? We will have to wait another week to find out. A lawsuit brought by the Republican Party of New Mexico wrapped up last night, but the judge still has a lot to consider.
Attorneys on both sides gave their closing arguments Thursday night, but the judge is still asking for some documents from lawmakers before he makes his decision.
“This is the worst or one of the worst maps in New Mexico’s history,” said Misha Tseytlin, attorney for the plaintiffs. “This is a partisan attempt. This had an egregious partisan effect…my friends have no justification for that effect; we would ask your honor to hold that this is a gerrymander and schedule remedial proceedings at the earliest possible time.”
That is the argument Republicans are making about the congressional district map, which was redrawn in 2021.
Republicans, in this case, have to satisfy three things in order to prove this map is a case of egregious gerrymandering: show that lawmakers intended to gerrymander the map, that they were successful in having that effect on the districts, and, in turn, that lawmakers couldn’t justify any other reason for why the map changed.
However, attorneys for the legislature fought back against their opponent’s claims and highlighted that the state Supreme Court has said some level of partisanship is expected and permissible when creating these maps.
“SB1 is not an egregious partisan gerrymander for one very simple reason: Under this plan, Congressional District 2 is a highly competitive toss-up district that either party can win,” said Sara Sanchez, attorney for the defendants.
Both sides brought on expert witnesses who created simulated model maps of the congressional districts. Each expert disagreed with the other on whether this map is gerrymandered. In closing arguments, attorneys attacked the experts’ testimonies again.
“Garbage in, garbage out,” said Tseytlin, talking about the defendant’s witness’ methodology. “When you force a simulation to put in a partisan criteria, you just get garbage out. And that’s, unfortunately, what we had with his thousand simulations, which was mostly 3-0 Democrat maps.”
Counsel for lawmakers said the same of the Republican’s expert: “Mr. Trende’s 2,040,000 maps that he testified about are not testable,” Sanchez said. “His maps are really not tied to any reality of New Mexico.”
The judge is asking for documents from lawmakers involved in the redistricting, including text messages and emails they have sent about the map. He gave counsel until the close of business on Monday. The judge has until next Friday to determine whether the map is gerrymandered.