Stop Incumbency Protection in Redistricting
Your team at Common Cause New Mexico has been keeping up with the CRC every step of the way, advocating for a transparent process with ample opportunity for public participation. We are also gearing up for the special session of the legislature, and we’ll be evaluating proposed maps for any signs of gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is by its nature a covert endeavor. Historically, it has not been easy to identify, except by a few. While racial and partisan gerrymandering are frequently identified and talked about in the media and academia, incumbency protection is less frequently discussed.
The New Mexico Redistricting Task Force in 2020 addressed problems of gerrymandering in New Mexico. They determined that legislators historically protected other incumbent legislators by:
- setting up “safe” seats (protected by gerrymandering) for incumbents of both parties;
- redistricting (or “drawing”) a potential primary election challenger out of an incumbent’s district;
- splitting up districts where incumbents chose not to run again in order to favor other incumbents.
This led the NM Redistricting Task Force to pass the following recommendation with 93% concurrence in 2020:
“USE OF TRADITIONAL PRINCIPALS WITHOUT FAVORING PARTIES OR INCUMBENTS: Districts shall be drawn consistent with the traditional districting principles but must not be drawn to favor a political party or incumbent officeholder.
a) The Task Force places a high priority on this criterion. We rank it after criteria such as equal population and following the Voting Rights Act, but before criteria such as compactness, contiguity, and communities of interest, or possibly preserving cores of existing districts.
(b) Following these criteria would do the most to ensure fairness and increase trust by the public.”