published : 2023-11-28

New Mexico Supreme Court upholds Democrat-drawn congressional map

Democrats swept NM's House elections in 2022

A photo of the New Mexico Supreme Court building, taken with a Nikon D850.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has delivered a verdict, upholding the Democratic-drawn congressional map in a groundbreaking decision.

In a move that could reshape the political landscape, New Mexico's highest court affirmed the redistricting plan enacted by Democratic state lawmakers in 2021.

This plan has reconfigured a swing district along the U.S. border with Mexico and divided up a conservative, oil-producing region.

The court's decision has significant implications as it provides substantial support for the Democrats' political power in the state.

All five justices have signed a concise order, stating that while the changes to the district boundaries fell short of 'egregious' gerrymandering, they did succeed in diluting the votes of their political opponents.

Republicans, who strongly opposed the new boundaries, argued that the redrawn map would solidify Democratic officials' hold on power.

They pointed to the defeat of incumbent GOP Congresswoman Yvette Herrell by Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez in the 2022 election as evidence of the new boundaries favoring the Democrats.

However, the Democratic state lawmakers countered this argument, claiming that the 2nd District in southern New Mexico remains competitive, with a narrow margin of victory of just 0.7% in the last election.

An image depicting Democratic state lawmakers discussing redistricting plans, taken with a Canon EOS R5.

The 2nd District, along with a dozen other districts nationwide, is crucial for Republicans as they strive to maintain their slim majority in the U.S. House in the upcoming 2024 election.

Notably, recent rulings in Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida deemed that Republican-led legislatures unfairly diluted the voting power of Black residents through gerrymandering.

Legal challenges to congressional districts are ongoing in several states, including Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

The outcome of the New Mexico case significantly relies on the closeness of the previous election, according to State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce.

As Republicans contemplate their next course of action, Pearce, a former Congressperson himself, expressed dissatisfaction with the legal result.

State District Court Judge Fred Van Soelen previously ruled that the changes to New Mexico's congressional districts are not in violation of the state constitution, further cementing the court's decision.

The political landscape in New Mexico currently favors Democrats, with them holding every statewide elected office, as well as three House and two Senate seats.

However, the closely divided chamber of the U.S. House reflects the national ratio of Republicans to Democrats among voters, following the Republicans' victory in the 2022 election.

A snapshot capturing the Republican Party Chairman speaking at a press conference about the court ruling, taken with a Sony A7 III.

New Mexico's approach to redistricting involved the use of a citizens advisory board, aiming to balance political influences without stripping redistricting powers from state lawmakers.

Advocacy groups, such as Common Cause, claim that this process has produced fairer maps.

Nevertheless, Republicans in the state legislature's minority assert that they were effectively excluded from the final legislative process, with conversations taking place outside of official hearings.

These conversations, conducted via email and text messages, were subject to subpoenas during the trial.

The newly redrawn 2nd District in New Mexico now presents a 12% advantage in voter registrations for Democrats, compared to a previously even split between the major parties.

As the 2024 campaign trail unfolds, the implications of this ruling in New Mexico and other ongoing legal battles over congressional districts nationwide are certain to shape the political landscape.

The nation will be watching closely as Republicans and Democrats vie for control of the U.S. House amidst these redistricting challenges.