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News and notes from City Hall, Bernalillo County and local politics

ACLU Sues ABQ Over Redistricting

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The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has sued the city of Albuquerque for failing to redraw its City Council districts in time for the Oct. 4 city election.

The ACLU says the districts must be remade every 10 years after the Census to ensure they have an even number of people in them. The West Side would be in for more representation under the new districts because its population has grown so much faster than the other districts.

The city didn’t redraw the districts this spring because Census data weren’t available until after deadlines had passed for candidates to
launch their campaigns under the public-financing system. Independent attorneys hired by the city said it was OK to wait on the
redistricting.

Here’s the ACLU news release:

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of
New Mexico filed a lawsuit in state district court, demanding that the
City of Albuquerque reverse its decision to postpone redistricting
until after the upcoming city council elections in October 2011. The
City is constitutionally required to reapportion voting districts
every 10 years following the release of federal census data to ensure
equal representation among voters. 2010 census data shows that
Albuquerque’s West Side experienced significant population growth,
while other areas of the city remained stagnant or shrunk in
population. By unlawfully postponing redistricting, the ACLU believes
the Albuquerque City Council will dilute the voting power of residents
on the West Side.

“At the heart of our democracy is the principle of ‘one person, one
vote’,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “When one city
council district is grossly underrepresented, other areas of the city
speak with a louder voice when it comes to making decisions about
political leadership, bond proposals, and other important issues that
affect us all. Failing to redistrict waters down the vote of citizens
living in high-growth areas.”

The City of Albuquerque is divided into nine separate districts, each
holding one seat on the city council. By law the boundaries of these
districts must be drawn in such a way that each district is roughly
equal in population. According to the latest census data, District 1
and District 5—both on the West Side—have 90,170 and 83,165 residents
respectively. The remaining seven districts all have constituencies
ranging in the low to mid-50,000 range.

For the past three decades following the release of new census data,
the City of Albuquerque has moved swiftly to redistrict before the
next city council election, ensuring that all areas of the city
remained equally represented. This year, with full knowledge of the
current major imbalance, the city chose to postpone redistricting
until after the October 2011 city council election.

“The entire purpose of census data is to make sure that our government
accurately represents who we are and the communities we live in,” said
ACLU-NM cooperating attorney David Urias. “By ignoring the latest
census data, the Albuquerque City Council devalues the votes of almost
two-fifths of the city’s population.”

In its lawsuit on behalf of the more than 170,000 people currently
living on the underrepresented West Side, the ACLU of New Mexico asks
the court to prohibit the City Council of the City of Albuquerque from
holding elections until they have completed redistricting as required
under the Constitution.

Read a full copy of the complaint here: Redistricting Complaint

The attorneys on this case are ACLU-NM Managing Attorney Laura Schauer
Ives, ACLU-NM Staff Attorney Alex Freedman Smith, ACLU-NM Co-Legal
Director Matthew Garcia and ACLU-NM cooperating attorneys John Boyd
and David Urias.

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