Commentary: Let’s face it! Redistricting is intrinsically an overwhelming, highly technical, and elitist process that was set up this way to suppress public input and participation in the once-every-ten-years process. But as it is now customary, community organizers and leaders have been able to dismantle many of these systemic barriers and obstacles, elevating the voices of community members in this highly important conversation.
So what is redistricting? Well, every 10 years, much like in 2020, the U.S. government carries out a complete head count of every person living in the country to track population increases or decreases. This information is used to determine how to best distribute funding and resources to every community nationwide. But perhaps most importantly, Census data is used to redraw political representation maps which determine how much or how little of a say you and your community will have in our federal and state governments. In other words, depending on who and how the redistricting process is carried out, you could experience a more responsive, representative government that works for the needs and aspirations of everyday New Mexicans, or the complete opposite–for the next decade.
In comes the ‘People’s Power, People’s Maps’ campaign. A community-led effort to educate the public and engage historically disenfranchised New Mexicans in taking part in the public hearings hosted by the newly formed Citizens Redistricting Committee–our independent, non-partisan entity that is tasked with providing our Legislature with concept maps for consideration as they finalize the redrawing of districts.
Since the launch of our campaign, we held dozens of community-based trainings, community meetings and debriefs to ensure everyday New Mexicans, from every corner of the state, had an opportunity to voice their wishes and concerns about our district maps. From this process, with the approval and endorsement of community leaders and hundreds of community members, we developed and introduced during the CRC hearings our very own Congressional Concept H and House Concept E: ‘The People’s Maps’–a set of comprehensive and unapologetic concept maps that represent the change people in our state wish to see.
Thanks to the outpouring of support, with over 200 comments in favor of these concept maps both in-person and submitted online, ‘The People’s Maps’ now head to our NM Legislature, where our elected officials will have the opportunity to elevate the public’s input, asking for better, more equitable representation for the next 10 years.
Now, as we head into a special session before the end of the year, where the final maps will be created, the space for public participation and input is still open and available. This is the opportunity for everyday New Mexicans to take the reins in shaping the democracy they need and deserve. This is the time to set the best foundation possible for our families and communities to be truly represented and afforded the opportunities they need to thrive. This is the time for bold, courageous leadership to implement ‘The People’s Maps’.
To find out more about redistricting, ways to get involved in our effort, and to join upcoming opportunities to have a say in shaping our representation for the next decade visit: newmexicoredistricting.org
Eli Cuna is a long-time community organizer and the redistricting campaign manager for the Center for Civic Policy.