SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A citizens advisory committee to the New Mexico Legislature on political redistricting is deciding on a set of conceptual maps to circulate for public comment.
The actual line-drawing will be done by the state’s Democrat-led Legislature, which could hew to the commission’s recommendations — or ignore the suggestions and use its overwhelming majorities to create districts that help Democrats win elections for years to come.
States, including New Mexico and Indiana, are using citizen advisory boards on redistricting to temper political inclinations without taking powers away from state lawmakers. Judges might wind up using the advisory maps to resolve redistricting lawsuits.
The New Mexico Legislature plans to convene in December to redraw boundaries for the state’s three congressional districts, 112 legislative seats and a public education commission that oversees public charter schools.
Proposed adjustments to a congressional swing district in southern New Mexico are under special scrutiny. Last year, U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell ousted a first-term Democrat from the 2nd District seat.
This marks the first time in at least 30 years that the redistricting process in New Mexico has been overseen by both a Democrat-led Legislature and Democratic governor. Republicans control the process in 20 states, including Florida, Texas and North Carolina.
The once-a-decade redistricting process has ramped up with the recent release of 2020 census data showing how populations have changed in neighborhoods, cities and counties since 2010.
U.S. House and state legislative districts must be redrawn to rebalance their populations. But mapmakers can create an advantage for their political party in future elections by packing opponents’ voters into a few districts or spreading them thin among multiple districts — a process known as gerrymandering.