It’s a long shot to make the ballot, but a proposal to take away the power of state lawmakers and the governor to redraw legislative districts got off to a successful start Wednesday.
The proposed constitutional amendment to create a five-member redistricting commission zipped through the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on a 9-0 vote.
Every 10 years, after the U.S. census, state lawmakers redraw boundaries for districts of the New Mexico Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Public Regulation Commission. Then the governor reviews the maps and can accept or veto them.
Gov. Susana Martinez in 2011 vetoed the redistricting plan for the state Senate, state House of Representatives and the Public Regulation Commission. A protracted fight in court followed. The total cost to taxpayers of redistricting in 2011 was almost $8 million. Nearly half the money went for legal fees.
The proposed constitutional amendment by state Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Nambé, would mostly remove state legislators from the redistricting process.
It would authorize the nominating commission for appellate judges to choose at least 20 candidates to serve on the redistricting commission. Then the leaders of the state Legislature would appoint four members of the redistricting commission. Those four would select the fifth commissioner, who would chair the panel on redistricting.
In theory, the change is supposed to remove most of the politics from redrawing political boundaries.
Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, said the change wouldn’t stop advocacy groups from suing if they believed the commission drew district boundaries to favor one political party over the other.
With two weeks left in the legislative session, the proposed amendment would still have to clear two more House committees and the full House of Representatives, and then survive a similar process in the Senate.
If it does, voters would make the final decision in the November election.