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Redistricting Could Be Done By Citizens

New Mexico Legislature
The 2011 Congressional redistricting map had to be finalized by a judge.

A plan to give individual voters more influence in elections hit a roadblock on Friday but is expected to get a hearing this week. The proposal (HJR 1) introduced by Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, would amend the state constitution to create an independent citizen group that would be in charge of redistricting.

Trujillo said Monday that the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee members asked him to simplify some of the language in the proposal, reducing it from seven pages to five. It's expected to be reheard Wednesday.

Every 10 years, after the national census, New Mexico takes those new population figures and redraws districts for Congress, the state Legislature and other elected offices.

But critics say the process is so politically-driven that it makes our elections less competitive and our officials less responsive to their constituents. A 2012 report from the Center for Public Integrity (conducted by this reporter) found the process rarely works the way it's intended.

State Sen. Bill O’Neill said he recently mailed out 4,000 questionnaires to voters in his district, and they overwhelmingly support the idea. "I always lead off with electoral reform," he said, "so the first question is: Would you support the establishment of an independent redistricting commission composed entirely of private citizens to address the problem of gerrymandering?" According to his analysis, the vast majority the responses are in favor of moving redistricting to a group independent of the state Legislature.

"It’s at least 95 percent [who] say yes!" O'Neill said. 

Check out all of the content from our People, Power and Democracy project. It's a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico In DepthNew Mexico PBS and the New Mexico News Port to explore ethics, transparency and the influence of money in New Mexico politics. Funding for the project comes from the Thornburg Foundation.

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