Some watchdog groups and redistricting experts filed an amicus brief in a case concerning New Mexico’s congressional redistricting maps on Aug. 14. The brief was filed in state judicial district court by watchdog groups Common Cause New Mexico, Election Reformers Network and the League of Women Voters New Mexico and it supports neither party in the case. The case concerns objections to New Mexico’s redistricted congressional maps that expanded the 2nd Congressional District into Albuquerque. That seat is currently held by former Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez, a Democrat.
Plaintiffs in the case, including the Republican Party of New Mexico, claim the adopted congressional map is gerrymandered against theirs and others’ votes which they state violates the New Mexico Equal Protection Clause, the brief stated.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday an attempt to exempt state legislatures from federal judicial review for redistricting issues. The Supreme Court rejected the “independent state legislature theory” in the Moore V. Harper (2003) case on a 6-3 vote. The theory states that state legislatures have “exclusive and independent authority” to draw federal congressional maps” based on the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause, the opinion states. “As an election official deeply committed to upholding the principles of democracy, I am thrilled by today’s Supreme Court decision in Moore vs. Harper,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said.
New Mexico’s top election official praised the settlement by Fox News in a defamation case over lies told by the network over the 2020 election. On April 18, Dominion Voting Systems accepted a nearly $800 million settlement from Fox News in the defamation case against the cable channel giant. This came on the same day the defamation case was set to go to trial. The suit came following former President Donald Trump’s re-election bid failed and he then claimed the election was not properly conducted since he lost. “The historic settlement is a victory for Dominion Voting Systems just as much as it is a victory for our democracy and for voter confidence,” New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Wednesday.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a voting rights expansion into law on Thursday.
HB 4 updates the state Election Code by expanding voting rights across New Mexico including the addition of the Native American Voting Rights Act and restores rights to formerly incarcerated felons. “For me, in particular, you know, New Mexico already is a state with expansive and productive voting rights access and protections, and that’s meaningful and I really want to say thank you to the state and all of the coalition members who have been clear about that,” Lujan Grisham said during the bill’s signing ceremony. “All the things that we have, to some degree, been able to take for granted, because we have good leadership… We cannot, in this climate, take that for granted that governors and secretaries of state and policymakers are going to be able to navigate it and we want to send a message to the rest of the country. That this is what voting protection and access should look like.”
More: Election reform bills pass Legislature
More than 50 organizations representing thousands of New Mexicans make up the coalition Lujan Grisham mentioned.
The state House of Representatives voted Wednesday to send a $9.57 billion budget bill to the governor for her approval. On a voice vote, the chamber concurred with the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 2, the last procedural step to send the bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. The Senate amendments include, among other changes, an additional $130 million in recurring spending for initiatives to address hunger and new investments in the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship college tuition fund. But concerns were raised on the House floor about the way the Senate Finance Committee made some extra budget adjustments just a day after the committee had already approved the bill. That action, which took place Sunday morning, annoyed Republican senators on the committee and raised questions about behind-the-scenes deals and political pressure for changes that may have come from the Governor’s Office.
With the session winding down with days to go, members of both parties in the New Mexico House of Representatives spoke in solidarity with House Minority Leader Rep. T. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, during a Wednesday floor session following a March 8 tweet referencing Lane’s introduction of his son on the floor. Evan Lane spent his 17th birthday at the Roundhouse being honored by his father Rep. Lane on March 8. “Now he’s a very special, special young man and I know I’m biased because I’m his father, but I want to share a bit about the transformation that he’s done in the last couple years,” Lane said.
Evan started working out and getting into wrestling two years ago, the elder Lane said. “Growing up as a kid, (Evan was a) very sweet, young man, great personality, very funny, not very athletic, not very motivated, if I can be frank for a minute,” Lane said. “About two years ago, he decided he was going to change things in his life… he’s found a tremendous amount of self discipline, to the point where he started getting up a few times a week in the morning around 5 a.m. Wake himself up, go workout, got into wrestling and it’s been very inspirational for his mother and I to see that kind of self-motivation and self-transformation that’s taking place within him and I know it will serve him well for the rest of his life.”
ProgressNow New Mexico* Energy Policy Director Lucas Herndon was watching the floor session that morning and made a Twitter post referring to Lane’s introduction of his son on the House floor on March 8 as “toxic masculinity.”
Lane spoke to the NM Political Report about the tweet.
The results from the 2022 Kids Count Data Book, released this week by the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children, are mixed, the group’s executive director, Amber Wallin, said. NMVC releases the Kids Count Data Book annually at the start of the Legislative session to provide policy makers with information and statistics on how New Mexico’s children and families are doing on four fronts: educationally, economically, health and family and community. Data gathering for the data book was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and that problem continues, with some data reflecting pre-pandemic conditions, Wallin said during a press conference this week. Some of the data reflects averages from the years 2016 to 2020, she said. One of the most striking deficits the 2022 data book reveals is child hunger.
Speaker of the House Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, opened up about the recent shootings of houses owned by Democratic politicians in Albuquerque, including his own. Martinez held a press briefing prior to the opening of the legislative session on Tuesday. “It’s long overdue, that we lower the temperature,” Martinez said. “These are the things that can happen when rhetoric gets out of hand. I am incredibly grateful to the Albuquerque Police Department, to (Albuquerque) Mayor (Tim) Keller and to all of those who played a role in protecting our safety and ensuring that our democracy remains intact.”
Martinez expressed alarm that the shootings occurred.
State Representatives elected Javier Martinez as Speaker of the House on Tuesday. Republicans nominated state Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell. Martinez won the Speaker of the House with 45 votes to Ezzell’s 25 votes. In Martinez’s speech, he mentioned that the New Mexico Legislature needs to be modernized and that this is a nonpartisan endeavor. “We have a 19th century legislative system for a 21st century society and economy,” Martinez said.
Martinez said that he takes his role as Speaker of the House and as a state representative seriously as do other members of the House.
In November, voters will vote whether an additional 1.25 percent of distribution will come from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to help support early childcare education in New Mexico, as well as address some of the concerns raised in the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit. The fund, also known as the Permanent School Fund, at around $25 billion, is one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. It grows annually based on a rolling five-year average, which protects the fund from stock market crashes and reductions in oil and gas revenues. The state currently distributes 5 percent of the fund, annually, to the New Mexico Public Education Department and to 20 other public institutions. For 10 years legislators and early childcare advocates worked on a joint resolution that would allow voters to decide if an additional 1.25 percent of the fund’s growth could be spent on early childcare and at-risk students.