A newly appointed Citizen Redistricting Committee, which has the unenviable job of redrawing New Mexico’s political district boundaries, laid the foundation of its work Friday during its first organizational meeting.

Among the seven-member panel’s first orders of business: unanimously approving the use of an online portal where the public will be able to submit proposed maps and testimony.

“There are many legal, geographic and demographic factors the committee will have to take into consideration when proposing maps, and public input will be critical as we attempt to carefully balance these factors,” Chairman Edward Chávez, a retired state Supreme Court justice, said after committee members took the oath of office.

“The purpose of today’s meeting is to organize the committee so that we can begin to educate the public about the importance of redistricting, the importance of the public’s participation, how it can participate and how we as a committee intend to be transparent as we draw maps that we will propose for adoption to the Legislature,” Chávez added.

The online portal, known as Districtr, allows members of the public to draw their own maps and “take it upon themselves to show in map form what they’re looking for when it comes to representation,” Moon Duchin, a mathematics professor at Tufts University who helped develop the tool, told the committee.

“The tool is being customized for your criteria and your needs in New Mexico,” she said. “For instance, we have a data layer showing pueblos, tribes and nations. These come from the census-designated boundaries because we know how important that is to thinking about communities in New Mexico.”

Mario Jimenez III, campaign director for Common Cause New Mexico, said the organization has “never seen this much interest in redistricting in the last 40 years.” He urged the committee to adopt the public input portal.

“The online portal gives more community participation than they have ever had in the redistricting process,” he said. “Giving the public the ability to submit maps and comments through the online portal expands public participation beyond the meetings that will be held by this committee.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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