In 2021, New Mexico voters could move closer to picking their legislators, instead of the other way around.

The state’s redistricting process often has been described as “one that effectively allows incumbents to tailor their districts to suit their political base,” according to “Redistricting New Mexico 2021.” The report was written by Gwyneth Doland for New Mexico In Depth.

Recommendations released Dec. 18 outline how to reform redistricting in New Mexico. The recommendations are the work of a 25-person, diverse statewide task force convened by New Mexico First, with funding from the Thornburg Foundation.

Three leading recommendations would ban the favoring of any party or incumbent, forbid the use of partisan data and require an advisory board to develop a small set of plans for the Legislature to choose from.

Recommendations call for the advisory board’s selection, rules and procedures to be based on model legislation by the Brennan Center for Justice, which has been working on redistricting for 20 years. The 15 citizen members would be chosen by the New Mexico Ethics Commission to be demographically, geographically and politically diverse, among other qualifications.

Other recommendations from the task force cover criteria and public engagement. Criteria had previously been only in guidelines; the recommendations call for them to be codified in statute. Recommended criteria include tightening the standards for deviation from the ideal population, with a requirement that the Legislature justify any such deviation.

The recommendations also call for accountability and transparency through public engagement.

Several hearings would be required, in different regions. Meetings would be open and announced in advance. Public input would be sought and considered. A website and media outreach would keep the public well-informed.

The reforms outlined by the task force would not only make New Mexico redistricting more fair and open, it would also save millions of dollars. Litigation for the 2011 round of redistricting cost New Mexico taxpayers an estimated $5 million.

A task force report isn’t enough to accomplish all these changes. I urge you to contact your legislators and ask them to support these reforms.

Cheryl Harris was born and raised in Albuquerque and has been an active member of the Democratic Party for many years. She is chairwoman of Adelante Progressive Party of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, a caucus working on reform and advancement of Democratic ideals. Her views represent Adelante but not necessarily those of the Democratic Party.

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