Judicial leaders call for truly independent redistricting - Albuquerque Journal

Judicial leaders call for truly independent redistricting

We are proud to be among those supporting House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1) that, if approved by the Legislature, would put the question of creating an Independent Redistricting Commission on the 2024 general election ballot. It would let the voters decide.

In 2021, we were part of the Fair Districts for New Mexico’s (FDNM) campaign to pass the 2021 Redistricting Act that created the Citizen Redistricting Committee (CRC). The Legislature should be proud of passing the Redistricting Act, but it is time to enshrine fair redistricting into the New Mexico Constitution, where it is a permanent part of our state’s government.

The CRC showed the value of a semi-independent redistricting entity. In a short time frame, the seven-member CRC conducted more than 14 public meetings around New Mexico, and provided three sets of recommendations for each set of district maps to be considered by the Legislature. The CRC did an admirable job in a very compact period of time.

But the CRC’s proposed maps were only recommendations. That means the legislators did not have to choose one of the CRC maps, but could create their own. Thus, they were able to choose their constituents rather than having constituents choose their legislators. The Legislature should approve HJR 1 and provide voters the opportunity to vote up or down on an independent redistricting commission. This would go a long way in furthering public trust in government.

A 2022 poll by the BPS Research supports passage of HJR 1. According to the survey of likely New Mexican voters, 77% support the creation of an independent redistricting commission. Only 12% opposed. Interviews with redistricting experts involved in past redistricting found that they, too, supported an independent redistricting commission.

Our experiment in self-governance is taking a hit these days for a variety of reasons. In New Mexico, allowing the voters to decide whether they prefer redistricting be performed by an independent redistricting commission, or the Legislature will signal to the people of New Mexico and other states that we do indeed care what our voters think. Redistricting is a way to have citizens represented in districts for who they are, not how they vote. Some may think an independent commission is a great idea, others may not, but that decision should be left to the voters, not to any one person or any one group. HJR 1 gives voters the choice. The Legislature should pass HJR 1 and let the voters to decide how they prefer redistricting to be performed.

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