Nonpartisan Redistricting is Still Controversial

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            Santa Fe          The electoral map for the midterm elections this November based on the 2020 census is still unsettled and contentious.  The New York Times recently weighted in that despite all of the sound and fury, the national map was still about what and what for each major party with no real difference in 2022 than existed in 2020.  Nonetheless, the fight is far from over.  The Supreme Court overturned the Wisconsin State Supreme Court’s map reverting to the heavy hand of the Republican legislature’s drawing there.  On the other hand, the North Carolina State Supreme Court recently sent back a demand – for the third time – that the Republican legislature there draw a fair map.  Pennsylvania’s court has mandated a fair map. The Democratic Governor of Louisiana vetoed the Republican legislature’s map in that state, and it is still up in he air whether there will be an override.  The only sure thing to say is that it depends on where you are.

New Mexico is one of those states where this process should have been straightforward.  The 2020 census didn’t add or subtract any Congressional seats, keeping the state with the same three they had had.  New Mexico has a nonpartisan redistricting commission.  The governor can tinker with the results, but the commission draws the map.  The map for the 2020 election had tilted towards two strongly Democratic districts and one that slightly favored Republicans, and those were the results of the 2020 vote with a Republican winning the southern part of the state.  The state overall went with Biden over Trump by a significant percentage, thanks largely to the strong Democratic vote out of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

In making the new maps, the commission wanted to assure that Hispanics in the state’s districts were more evenly distributed.  One district remained solidly Democratic, but shifting some of Albuquerque around lowered the Democratic advantage in the other, formerly safe second seat, and gave the Democrats and Republicans a pretty much even chance in the third seat, now held by a first term Republican.  The Republican party is suing over the new map, but unlikely to prevail, since a nonpartisan commission creating two competitive districts is a long haul away from gerrymandering by most counts.  As it happens, old district or new district, the two big noncommercial radio construction permits we were awarded by the FCC are both in the now more contested district, so as I traveled the counties of the state looking for antenna locations while stopping in Carlsbad, Roswell, Capitan, and Ruidoso, it wasn’t hard to get an earful.

I visited with an old comrade who had been active back-in-the-day in the Chicano movement.  He lived in the one blue district in the strongly red, growing city of Roswell.  He told me about the bitter band of anti-maskers that hadn’t been able to pull many people out to protest at school board meetings, but were able to mobilize and unseat two mainline Republicans on the nonpartisan board and replace them with newer, more militant rightwing folks.  He was excited about the new maps though and how competitive it would make the election for areas where he had organized not only in Roswell, but Loving, Portales, and elsewhere.  He bemoaned the fact that rural New Mexico and its people hadn’t been getting the attention they needed and deserved and the movement of his own family into the city.  We talked about co-op elections and radio stations and the difference they could make at the grassroots level.

Making one Congressional seat in New Mexico more of a tossup won’t change the world, but it could make a big difference to a lot of people living in in the southern part of the state, all of which makes it worth watching, and worth working there.