New Mexico Supreme Court to take on redistricting case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court will take up a legal challenge over a congressional map that divvies up a conservative area of the state, ordering Friday that the parties prepare to make oral arguments in early January.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection, and her legislative allies had asked the Supreme Court to step in and stay proceedings that began earlier this year in state district court.

The Republican Party and several other plaintiffs had sued over the new map for the 2nd District in southern New Mexico, citing public comments by top Democratic legislators as evidence of partisan bias in decisions about the district’s boundaries.

The case holds implications for the district where Republican Yvette Herrell ousted a first-term Democrat in the 2020 election to win back GOP control of the seat. It includes one of the most lucrative oil-producing regions in the U.S. and extends to remote stretches of the U.S. border with Mexico.

In a ruling in April, District Judge Fred Van Soelen denied a preliminary injunction that sought to set aside the map ahead of the June primary and the November general election. He said making changes “this late in the game” would result in chaos and would not be in the public’s best interest.

He also noted that the map at issue could potentially be used for the next five elections, until the next redistricting process in about 10 years, so the case — which could affect elections after 2022 — would continue.

GOP attorney Christopher Murray had argued in court earlier this year that the congressional map approved in December 2021 by the Democratic-led Legislature and signed by Lujan Grisham was partisan, diluted the conservative vote and violated state constitutional rights to impartial government.

Attorneys for the Legislature and governor have defended the state’s congressional map, saying it was vetted through the political process.

Democrats hold two of New Mexico’s three congressional seats, command majorities in the state House and Senate, make up the five-member Supreme Court and hold every statewide elected office.