Republicans take New Mexico’s congressional map to trial

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Republicans in New Mexico are arguing the state’s new congressional boundaries are gerrymandered, giving an unfair advantage to Democrats.

This case is playing out in Lovington, but the New Mexico Supreme Court weighed in Tuesday and made a big decision.

The state Supreme Court dismissed Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales as defendants in the redistricting lawsuit, but the lawsuit will still move forward with the remaining defendants – the state Legislature.

KOB 4 spoke with a UNM law professor about what this ruling means.

“When you think about redistricting, though, it’s mainly and almost exclusively a state legislative process that doesn’t involve the governor, lieutenant governor anyway, all that much,” Professor Joshua Kastenberg said. “So the fact that they were dismissed from the case simply shows me that the initial filing and including them as parties was an error by those challenging the Legislature, and they did too broad of an approach to their lawsuit against the state Legislature.”

The lawsuit is focused on changes that were made to the boundaries of New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. Before, it encompassed almost all of southern New Mexico. After redistricting, the new map splits up portions of southeastern New Mexico.

Attorneys for the Republicans filing the suit claim that was done to dilute the Republican vote, by creating a Democrat majority in all three congressional districts. However, the question still stands – is this something the courts can even change, or does the map need to be redrawn in the Legislature?

“It may be sent back to the Roundhouse,” Kastenberg said. “And the reason for that is, the courts have been instructed by the United States Supreme Court that the primary vehicle for creating voting districts, for managing election day matters, is the state government – specifically the state Legislatures.”

Tuesday was the first day of the trial and it is set to go on for a total of three days. There is a hard deadline for a decision – the state Supreme Court gave the district judge overseeing the case until Oct. 6 to come to his conclusions so it can be reviewed by the high court.

They want this decision to be made as soon as possible so any potential changes come into effect in time for the 2024 elections.