NM Supreme Court to hear redistricting dispute

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SANTA FE— A political dispute over legislative redistricting is going before New Mexico’s highest court.
The state Supreme Court is to hear arguments from lawyers Tuesday afternoon in a challenge to new districts for the state House of Representatives.

The Legislature and a group of Democrats and minority voters are asking the Supreme Court to overturn a redistricting map approved last month by state District Court Judge James Hall.

Legislative lawyers want the justices to order a redistricting proposal passed by the Legislature last year but vetoed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

The judge adopted a House plan advocated by the governor and other GOP statewide officials. Democrats contend the revised districts will help Republicans pick up House seats in this year’s elections.

In his ruling Judge Hall adopted Executive Plan 3, and this kept Los Alamos County intact. District 43, whose representative is Jim Hall, would be composed of all of Los Alamos County, Rio Arriba County precincts 25 and 30, Sandoval County precincts 7, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 51, 78 and 79 and Santa Fe County precincts 12 and 80.

“I am disappointed but not surprised,” Rep. Hall said. “We will see what happens. It is what it is. Unfortunately, the citizens of New Mexico have to pay for it.”

In the decision, Judge Hall wrote, “Of the plans submitted to the Court, Executive Alternate Plan 3 as modified above best complies with legal standards for court-ordered redistricting. It properly places the highest priority on population equality and compliance with the Voting Rights Act as required by law.

“… The districts are contiguous and reasonably compact. Political and geographic boundaries are preserved to a reasonable degree. … Incumbents are paired only as necessary and are paired in a manner that is politically neutral. To a reasonable degree, communities of interest are maintained.”

The legislative appeal said the judge’s decision allowed the governor to use redistricting litigation as an end run around the Legislature.

“Adopting the executive approach sets a dangerous precedent that would provide a judicially approved roadmap for any future governor who disagrees with the Legislature to undermine the entire political process of redistricting that is mandated by our constitution and laws,” lawyers for the Legislature said.