Judge signs off on Congressional map

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A state judge on Thursday adopted a redistricting plan that will establish slightly different boundaries for New Mexico’s three congressional districts and made the fewest changes among the proposed alternatives.

The new map keeps Clovis in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, represented by Democrat Ben Ray Lujan. Dora, Floyd, Elida and southern parts of Portales now belong to the state’s 2nd Congressional District, represented by Republican Steve Pearce.

The plan adopted by State District Judge James Hall makes the fewest changes to the existing districts. It has the support of Gov. Susana Martinez, other Republicans and a group of Democrats that include Rep. Brian Egolf of Santa Fe.

“Gov. Martinez believes this plan is fair, as it appropriately equalizes population without advantaging one political party over the other,” Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said in a statement.

Darnell said the governor is also pleased that a bipartisan plan was presented in an effort to reduce the cost of litigation related to the redistricting effort.

Hall considered two other plans: one that was based on shifting voters to equalize populations in each district, and another proposed by the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, that would revamp boundaries to give Hispanics a stronger voice in the 2nd Congressional District.

Hall disputed the need for a majority Hispanic congressional district given that there has been a high level of Hispanic participation in New Mexico political offices and that the state has a long history of electing Hispanics to congressional and state offices.

He pointed to Martinez, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and his father, New Mexico House Speaker Ben Lujan, and noted that the current secretary of state, the state auditor and three of New Mexico’s Supreme Court justices are also Hispanic.

Hall said in his ruling that the plan supported by Egolf and the others respected existing boundaries and placed the fewest number of voters in new districts. The plan strikes “an appropriate balance between various communities of interest and, to a reasonable extent, respects boundaries of political units,” Hall said.

District boundaries must be adjusted for population changes over the past decade. The goal is equalize district populations as much as possible to ensure that each New Mexican’s vote is of equal weight. That’s necessary to comply with the legal requirements of one person, one vote.

According to the 2010 Census, the state’s population grew by more than 13 percent. With that growth, the 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts were overpopulated by 1 to 2 percent, while the 2nd Congressional District was underpopulated by more than 3 percent.

The plan adopted by Hall shifts fewer than 25,000 New Mexicans into new districts. The other plans had proposed shifting between 185,000 and 264,000 people.

“Such a shift in districts is not necessary to correct the population imbalances in the current plan,” the judge said.

Under the adopted plan, the current districts remain mostly intact and the voting performance of the districts would not change.

The changes affect Roosevelt County, with Portales remaining in the 3rd District and most other parts of the county going into the 2nd District. Most of Rio Rancho will be unified in the 3rd District.