COMMON CAUSE NEW MEXICO APPLAUDS NM SUPREME COURT REDISTRICTING DECISION
The best solution to prevent partisan gerrymandering is a constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission
The New Mexico Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling this week that partisan gerrymandering violates the Equal Protection Clause of the New Mexico Constitution.
This decision guarantees protections against the manipulation of voting districts and empowers a trial court to adjudicate Republican Party of New Mexico v. Oliver, a partisan gerrymandering claim arising out of the most recent redistricting cycle. But the decision isn’t a clearcut victory for anyone except those who want continued legal wrangling and partisan squabbles.
“While this decision allows an important new legal tool, only the legislature can permanently end the conflict of interest allowing politicians to draw our voting maps by passing a constitutional amendment. The real answer is an amendment creating an independent redistricting commission with the final authority to approve maps,” said Mason Graham, policy director for Common Cause New Mexico.
“These commissions are drawing fair maps in other states with public participation and transparency. It undermines the hard work of the New Mexico Citizens Redistricting Committee when legislators have the legal ability to throw out the maps and redraw their own.”
Common Cause has been involved in many redistricting cases at the federal and state levels, including Rucho v. Common Cause, which was cited in the recent New Mexico Supreme Court decision. In Rucho, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that partisan gerrymandering was a matter for states and Congress to address but that federal courts could not hear cases challenging maps on that basis. Justice Kagan authored a dissent lamenting the Court’s failure to act and suggesting a three-part test to identify a map unlawfully gerrymandered for partisan advantage.
The New Mexico Supreme Court adopted Justice Kagan’s test to identify violations of the New Mexico Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and ordered the Fifth New Mexico Judicial Court in Roswell to apply it to New Mexico’s congressional map in Republican Party of New Mexico v. Oliver. The court has until October to consider the matter.
The three-part test is whether the map was:
- deliberately constructed to dilute the opposing party’s votes,
- whether the scheme succeeded in that vote dilution, and
- whether there is a non-partisan explanation for the map.
Any decision from the lower court will likely be appealed back to a higher court, which would have to draw a new map itself or toss it back to the legislature. Meanwhile, the clock will be ticking on the 2024 primary.
“We are happy that this decision affirms that the courts have a role as a backup to ensure that every vote counts equally. But when it comes to map drawing, our first choice is an independent redistricting commission,” added Graham.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard as equals in the political process.