In some ways, the New Mexico Legislature operates the same way it did at statehood more than a century ago. The legislative session itself is the shortest in the nation and New Mexican legislators are the only ones not paid for the job of to producing, debating and approving legislation. One of the organizations behind the movement to update the legislative session for modern times is Common Cause, which hopes to have a state constitutional amendment placed on the ballot that would extend the session and add a five day recess after 30 days that would not count against the session’s active days. Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Mario Jimenez, III spoke to New Mexico Political Report about this and other issues the organization is pursuing. “We often see legislation that is hastily run, and we often have to come back and fix those in future legislation because of a few things that the legislature may have missed over some conflicts within other sections of law or sections of the Constitution,” Jimenez said.
New Mexico lawmakers protected themselves and their colleagues when they redrew political district maps crafted by a 2021 nonpartisan advisory commission, shielding incumbents of both parties from competition and making legislative elections less competitive, according to a new 59-page report co-authored by University of New Mexico political science professor Gabriel Sanchez. The study, released Sept. 28, found no evidence that New Mexico Democrats, who have strong majorities in the House and Senate, politically gerrymandered their districts, a conclusion based on statistical analysis conducted by Sanchez’s co-author and University of Georgia professor David Cottrell. “The protection of incumbents was the greatest source of gerrymandering this session,” the authors concluded, based on the analysis and interviews with experts.
That outcome resulted from inherent weaknesses in how lawmakers set up the state’s new Citizens Redistricting Committee – the committee doesn’t have final say on what redistricting maps are adopted, the report found. This story was written by New Mexico In Depth and is republished with permission.
Discouraged by seemingly endless court battles, gerrymandering opponents in some states are shifting their strategy two years before the 2020 census sparks another round of redistricting for legislative seats. Voters in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah will decide in November whether to have independent commissioners, rather than state lawmakers, draw congressional maps and the lines for state legislative seats. Except for Colorado, where lawmakers added the ballot measure, activists got these initiatives on the ballot by gathering signatures. And earlier this year, Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that requires bipartisan support for new lines, though the power to draw them returns to the majority party if several redistricting attempts fail. The new system goes into effect in 2021.