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HJR1, a bill to put the question of creation of an Independent Redistricting Commission in New Mexico on the 2024 ballot died Monday in the New Mexico House Judiciary Committee on a 10-1 vote. Multiple lawmakers voiced their viewpoint that the legislature should retain authority to draw its own district lines. Advocates for the bill offered extensive testimony, arguing for the bill’s passage and presenting survey data that 77% of likely N.M. voters want an independent redistricting commission and that the Legislature should let voters decide.

Representatives Natalie Figueroa (D-ABQ) and Jason Harper (R-Rio Rancho) presented a compelling case for an independent redistricting commission. They were joined in their presentation by Robert Rhatigan, a member of the 2021 advisory Citizen Redistricting Committee and Heather Balas, Vice President of the Election Reformers Network.

“We are very disappointed,” said Dick Mason of Fair Districts for New Mexico, “What we saw yesterday in the House Judiciary Committee was bipartisanship, but NOT the kind advocates of democracy seek. Both the Republicans and Democrats members of the committee came together to protect their own power.; Despite legitimate concerns about partisan gerrymandering, redistricting in New Mexico has been primarily about incumbency protection for legislators of both major parties.”

Despite the committee’s vote to oppose the bill, there was no opposition from the public. Instead, the following organizations offered testimony in support of HJR1: Adelante Progressive Caucus ; Retake our Democracy; American Association of University Women; Election Reformers Network; Fair Districts New Mexico; League of Women Voters of New Mexico; Lutheran Advocacy Ministries; New Mexico Council of Churches; National Organization for Women; New Mexico First Redistricting Task Force; Progressive Democrats of America – Central New Mexico and Vecinos United.

Other organizations contacted Committee members in advance of the hearing to support HJR1.

“Data from multiple other states with Independent Redistricting Commissions objectively demonstrate that, when voting boundaries are drawn by these independent groups, the maps are less biased and more reflective of communities, than when drawn by legislatures,” said Heather Balas of the national research organization Election Reformers Network. “Given the rising degree of polarization and distrust by voters in the election system, New Mexico and other states must take action to advance proven reforms to make our system more fair.”

A repeating concern by advocates across the country is the inherent conflict of interest for legislators to draw their own district lines and Congressional boundaries that are often seen to advance the majority parties and/or protect incumbents. These concerns were repeated voiced by New Mexico advocates.

Kathleen Burke of Fair Districts for New Mexico, a coalition of over 40 organizations that supported HJR1, said Fair Districts will work with bill sponsors and advocates to reintroduce the bill in the 2024 session.