Today was a long and wild ride in Santa Fe! We started the day in the Senate Rules committee where SJR 1 to create an Independent Redistricting commission was scheduled. Common Cause New Mexico’s Campaign Manager, Heather Ferguson, served as the expert witness for Senator O’Neill and Representative Carl Trujillo. After some good discussion from committee members, we were unfortunately tabled on a 6-3 vote. The biggest reason for the table was concern from committee members about a current case before the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to be heard early next month.
Quick note about the case: In 2012, Arizona state legislators challenged the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission’s right to draw congressional districts in federal court. The legislators argue that the U.S. Constitution only allowed state legislatures and not citizen commissions or any other entity to draw districts. The Arizona Legislature lost in federal court, but the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their appeal in March 2015.
New Mexicans strongly favor independent redistricting – we recently asked voters here in the state about creating an independent commission to conduct redistricting, and 68% of them do! SJR 1 would establish written criteria for re-drawing district boundaries and require a fair and transparent process for conducting redistricting. The drawing of electoral districts is not transparent and all too often, there is no public participation. The resulting districts can often serve the political interests of the people who draw them, rather than the interests of the people being represented.
And look at the demographics showing broad support for independent redistricting!
- Male - 71%
- Female - 65%
- Hispanic - 59%
- Anglo - 76%
- Albuquerque Metro - 67%
- Northwest - 57%
- North Central - 68%
- South/Southwest - 62%
- East Side - 88%
- 18 to 34 years - 65%
- 35 to 49 years - 69%
- 50 to 64 years - 69%
- 65 years or older - 69%
- Democrat - 69%
- Republican - 70%
- Independent/Other - 63%
While we are obviously disappointed at the vote to table the bill, we are more determined than ever to see this commission pass and become a reality in New Mexico. We will be working with partners across the state to amplify the message and show that when voters feel that their input matters, they participate. Seeing incumbents win time and again because districts are rigged to stifles competition and creates a sense of incumbent inevitability. This creates a disconnection between citizens and their elected officials.
This combination of disenfranchisement and current low voter participation is toxic to our democracy. It permits big money campaign donors and special interests to dominate our government which over 64% of voters already agree has too much influence. Additionally, unfair districting has historically had a disproportionately negative impact on minority citizens across the state.
Then this afternoon we were in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs committee with Representative Jeff Steinborn and House Bill 155 to update the Lobbyist Regulation Act. I sat with the Representative and told the committee how much New Mexicans support the bill, and that the perception of legislators being more responsive to lobbyists creates mistrust and causes citizens to disengage – a robust democracy is necessary and having transparency and disclosure about who is spending what on who helps alleviate bad perceptions.
Unfortunately, the bill was also tabled, this time on a 3-3 vote.
However, the committee asked some good questions, and Rep. Steinborn is open to discussions about amendments. We will be back in Santa Fe bright and early in the morning to meet with committee members and interested parties to see about compromises and getting it pulled off the table and up for a “do pass” vote!
And we are feeling pretty good about that with numbers like these:
- 64% of voters say New Mexico’s elected officials are more responsive to lobbyists than voters; only 19% say they are more responsive to voters.
- The vast majority of voters (89%) say it is would be a good idea to require registered lobbyists to make public the bills or issues they have been hired to advocate so that voters know who is lobbying on issues.