New Mexico Supreme Court outlines guidance for handling gerrymandering lawsuit
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court issued guidance Wednesday to a lower court on how to handle a challenge to the state’s new congressional maps.
The high court also set a deadline of Oct. 1 for a district court in Roswell to resolve the case. The state’s Republican Party sued last year, claiming that newly redrawn maps of New Mexico’s three congressional districts amounted to gerrymandering. Democrat defendants argued that the maps were a policy matter that fell under the purview of the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
The state Supreme Court, which is made up of Democrats, stated in its order that given the political nature of redistricting, a reasonable degree of partisan gerrymandering is permissible under the New Mexico Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment.
“At this stage in the proceedings, it is unnecessary to determine the precise degree that is permissible so long as the degree is not egregious in intent and effect,” the order states.
Among the things the judge will have to consider is evidence comparing the district's voter registration data under the new maps and the data associated with the prior maps.
Republicans have argued that the congressional districts drawn by Democrats diluted GOP voting strength in violation of the equal protection clause of the New Mexico State Constitution. They cited public comments by top Democratic legislators as evidence of partisan bias in decisions about the district’s boundaries.
Consultants to the Legislature have said the redrawn maps gave Democrats an advantage in all three districts to varying degrees, based on past voting behavior.
For example, the traditionally conservative-leaning 2nd District shifted to incorporate heavily Hispanic neighborhoods of Albuquerque and cede parts of an oil-producing region in southeastern New Mexico.
The outcome holds implications for the southern New Mexico district, where Republican incumbent Yvette Herrell was ousted by Democrat Gabe Vasquez, a former Las Cruces city councilor, in a close race during the 2022 midterm elections.
Herrell pointed to the redrawn map at the time, saying it was enough to give Democrats an advantage. She announced in April that she would be running for the seat again in 2024.