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Courts handle New Mexico congressional maps

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s three congressional districts have changed very little in the past two decades; but when they have, state courts — not the Legislature or governor — have redrawn the boundaries.

State district court judges in 2002 and 2011 adopted “least change” redistricting plans that only slightly altered district boundaries to equalize their populations to conform with the legal requirements of one-person, one-vote.

Redistricting didn’t alter the political tilt of the districts. One factor is that redistricting took place with divided government in New Mexico — a Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican governors: Susana Martinez, who took office in 2011, and Gary Johnson, who served in 1995-2002. Neither Democrats nor Republicans had absolute control over the remapping process.

The 3rd District of northern New Mexico is heavily Democratic. The 2nd District of southern New Mexico has been reliably Republican in its voting performance despite Democrats holding an edge in voter registration and a large Hispanic population. New Mexico’s rural Democrats tend to be more moderate to conservative than their urban counterparts.

The Albuquerque-area 1st District has been the most politically competitive seat recently. Republicans held it for decades until a Democrat won in 2008, when the GOP incumbent stepped down to run for another office and Democrat Barack Obama boosted the party with a strong showing in the presidential election. Republicans have failed to regain the seat.

The Legislature failed to approve a congressional redistricting plan in 2011, forcing a state district court to handle the job. The plan adopted by the judge had the backing of the GOP governor and some Democrats in the redistricting case.

The judge turned down proposals that could have strengthened Democratic influence in the Albuquerque-area district and created a Hispanic majority district in southern and south-central New Mexico.

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