This redistricting cycle was the first to utilize an advisory commission, the Citizen Redistricting Committee (CRC) in the drawing of state and congressional district lines. SB 304, signed into law in April 2021, enacted a seven-member advisory commission composed of appointed individuals who have not served during the previous two years as a state or federal legislative employee, lobbyist, or political officeholder, and were not the relative of an officeholder. The commission is composed of two non-partisan members selected by the State Ethics Commission, four members selected by each state legislative leader, and one retired state judge or justice also selected by the State Ethics Commission.

Notably, the advisory commission can consider maintaining the cores of existing districts and must also take into consideration the boundaries of reservations.

On January 6, 2022, all New Mexico redistricting plans were signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Soon after, New Mexico Republicans filed a lawsuit challenging the congressional map, claiming it was a partisan (Democratic) gerrymander. In July 2023, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that extreme partisan gerrymandering violates the New Mexico Constitution and ordered the trial court to complete the proceedings by October 1, 2023.

Community of Interest Story

This cycle, for the first time, there was a Native American coalition, Native American Voting Alliance, which pushed for a fair process and representative maps. The coalition mobilized indigenous communities to give testimony, created a Native American coalition map, and ultimately was key in passing the final maps. As a result of their steadfast advocacy surrounding the senate map, Native American voting power was upheld in northwest New Mexico.

Overall State Grade: B

Create more opportunities for rural communities to participate: While the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the redistricting process across the country, many states, including New Mexico, pivoted to virtual and hybrid meetings. The CRC made efforts to reach rural communities that are less likely to have reliable broadband access, and were legally obligated to hold one meeting in each of the geographic quadrants of the state and at least one meeting on tribal lands.59 Organizers were generally satisfied with the amount and types (virtual, in-person) of meetings, but felt there could be even more outreach to rural areas, citing the limitations of only requiring four in-person meetings across the vast expanse of the state.

Coalition/unity map efforts pay off: Several organizers shared success stories from this cycle. For example, a coalition of advocates from Center for Civic Policy, Progress Now, New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative, and others, successfully mobilized cross-racial communities to advocate for and pass the first community-drawn congressional map, the People’s Map, which created a POC-majority district in southeastern New Mexico.

Lessons Learned:

  • An independent, representative redistricting commission is needed: This cycle, organizers worked to pass legislation to enact an independent redistricting committee, which ultimately became an advisory committee. While organizers were generally satisfied with the advisory committee, ultimately, the power to approve maps still rested with the legislature. Further, the redistricting body must be more representative of the entirety of the state – this cycle, many felt the redistricting committee had an over-representation of members from central New Mexico (i.e., Albuquerque), and could benefit from more members from the southern parts of the state and Native American communities.
  • Continue to fight to end prison gerrymandering: This cycle, efforts were made to end prison gerrymandering in the state. While these efforts did make their way to the committee, who advised the legislature how to end the practice, ultimately, prison gerrymandering was not ended this cycle. While unsuccessful this time around, the momentum must be continued into 2030.
  • Start coalition efforts early: Organizers stressed the importance of both starting coalition building and having concise organizing plans early. Organizers also expressed the importance of tying together census and redistricting coalition work, as the two impact one another.