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Independent redistricting commission moves closer to ballot

New Mexico PBS

The question of whether to have an independent commission, rather than lawmakers, redraw the state’s legislative maps has advanced out of its first committee.

Last year, for the first time ever, the non-partisan Citizen Redistricting Committee engaged the public and proposed new boundaries for the legislature’s consideration.

Dick Mason with the League of Women Voters of New Mexico told a panel of lawmakers last week that while that process was an improvement, the next step must be for an independent commission to not just make recommendations, but make the final call.

“That will once and for all eliminate the inherent conflict of interest that has legislators developing their own districts,” he said.

A measure that would put that question before New Mexico voters passed out of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee on a 5-4 vote Wednesday, Feb. 9. Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey joined the committee’s three Republicans in opposition, endorsing the current process.

“I mean, I think it worked really well for the House,” she said while explaining her vote.

While the House adopted a version of a CRC map in December, the Senate did not, andwas criticized for a lack of transparency.

The version of HJR9 that passed out of committee, which has yet to be posted on the legislature's website, would prohibit elected officials from ever serving on the redistricting commission. Former candidates, campaign staff, lobbyists and certain others involved in partisan politics would be barred from serving for 10 years.

The only power lawmakers would retain in the redistricting process is the ability for House and Senate leaders from both parties to each strike three nominees put forward by the State Ethics Commission, which would appoint the members.

The legislation now heads to the House Judiciary committee.

This story is part of our Your New Mexico Government project, a collaboration between KUNM and New Mexico PBS. Support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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