Redistricting fight moves to the courts
With a legislative compromise over redistricting between the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez failing to emerge, the redrawing of New Mexico’s districts for federal and state lawmakers now goes to the courts.
The Associated Press reports:
The cases ask the courts to establish new districts for Congress, the state House of Representatives, the state Senate and the Public Regulation Commission. The lawsuits also seek orders stopping state officials from using current districts for next year’s elections.
“Since we’ve had the census, we know for a fact that the districts as currently configured are unconstitutional if applied in the next election,” Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Tuesday.
Redistricting ended up in court because the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez appear unlikely to agree on plans for new districts.
The Legislature adjourned a special session during the weekend without approving a congressional redistricting plan, and the governor has promised to veto Democratic-backed plans passed by the Legislature for the Senate and House. The governor is reviewing a PRC redistricting plan approved by lawmakers and hasn’t announced whether she will veto it.
The stated priority of the special session was passing a redistricting plan, and the Legislature did manage to approve new state House and Senate maps. However, it ultimately failed to approve maps for redrawing New Mexico’s three U.S. House districts. Although the Legislature approved an $86 million capital outlay bill and food stamp supplements, it failed to pass many of Martinez’s key priorities, including a repeal of a 2003 law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and an end to social promotion of third graders in public schools.
Some legislators have condemned the special session for wasting taxpayer money on a redistricting fight that was doomed from the start, given divided government and Martinez’s commitment to veto maps that would shift the partisan advantage of legislative districts to Democrats.
State House GOP Whip Donald Bratton told AP: “I think we wasted a lot of money that we didn’t have to waste, and we’re going to spend more money because now it’s going to go to court and ultimately the courts will decide the outcome.”
Speculation that redistricting will ultimately have to be decided by the state Supreme Court hint at a drawn-out battle. Ten years ago redistricting was also sent to the courts, and the Supreme Court assigned the final decision to a District Court judge from Bernalillo County.