One thing is clear about the legislative process during the Special Session is that partisan and bi-partisan brokering is being conducted behind closed doors and in wanton disregard for the Citizens Redistricting Committee process and principles. Today, we try to make sense of it all.
Before we begin today’s post, a heads-up to look for another post today or on Tuesday morning on the Four Corners Power Plant decision to be made at the PRC meeting Weds., Dec. 15, 9:30 a.m. Now, on to the redistricting fiasco…
Sunday at the Roundhouse: the derailing of our democratic process
This weekend at the Roundhouse, what is “known” changed minute by minute. Hearings were scheduled and then postponed repeatedly, presumably because caucuses were still meeting behind closed doors to craft maps to be introduced as “committee substitutes.” I had a post ready to go on Saturday with guidance for action on Sunday, but then things changed and what I had written was no longer valid or accurate. As a result, it has been next to impossible to report on this thoughtfully or on a timely basis.
This post is late, but I feel a responsibility to publish only when I am reasonably certain of the accuracy of what is being published. So, when things are done entirely behind closed doors and then presented in highly orchestrated committee hearings it is impossible to get out front and offer guidance on actions to take.
All weekend I didn’t know what was actually going to be introduced or voted on until it was happening. But now that the sham Senate Judiciary hearing (described below) is over and the evening Senate floor session to vote on SB2 has been pushed to Monday (today) at noon, I have time to offer comment on what has transpired.
The Senate convened briefly on Sunday at 4 pm just to excuse Sen. Candelaria from the session, apparently at his request. I guess DTS can mean both “decline to state” as your registration and “decline to serve” as your modus operandi. I digress. The brief Senate floor hearing also allowed Sen. Wirth to schedule a subsequent floor hearing later Sunday to vote on SB2, a substitute bill that emerged from Senate Judiciary earlier Sunday. But first, Sen. Wirth had to allow caucuses to meet so that, as much as possible, they could script the floor hearing and ensure adequate praise and credit was given to the Citizens Redistricting Committee (CRC) and their maps that the Senate ignored. They then postponed that hearing to today at noon. (Fair Districts NM reported this morning that there may be a floor substitute introduced today for SB2.) You can watch the rationalizations and disingenuous plaudits for the CRC by clicking here at noon. At the same link you can watch the recording of yesterday’s Sen. Judiciary hearing.
While waiting for this theater to continue to unfold today, I can try to fill you in on what happened Sunday. Spoiler alert: virtually all of it is undemocratic and vile.
Everything that follows should be prefaced by “It appears that…” — this special session has been tangled and murky. No one seems to know what is going on or what will happen next. Hence this morning’s update from the heroic Fair Districts NM who are on the ground for each hearing, at the Roundhouse from morning until evening. FDNM this morning: “Today’s Redistricting Proceedings, Schedule Unknown.”
SB2, State Senate Boundaries
It appears that in backroom negotiations, SB2 (CRC-based map for State Senate boundaries) had achieved “tribal consensus” with modest changes made to the CRC map on which it was based. These changes were designed to avoid splitting indigenous majority districts and diluting the indigenous voice. However, the SB2 that had achieved tribal consensus was never introduced. A substitute for SB2 was introduced in Sen. Judiciary and was immediately opposed by the NM Native Vote coalition, by indigenous leadership, and by 38 of the 39 constituents offering public comment.
Rather than introducing obviously manipulated maps, the maps the Senate should be considering first are those sent to them by the CRC. But that boat has sailed, and Senate leadership has placed the Senate in the position of choosing between one back-room map that at least is based on a CRC map, supports Native American voting power, and reflects a Native American consensus, and another back-room map that the tribes oppose but makes some incumbents happier. Guess who wins this one?
The draft committee substitute for SB2 was not on the NM Legislature website when introduced and I still have not seen it. So the only information we have on it is from a reliable source who wishes to remain anonymous for now:
” [The original] SB2 had been drawn without consideration for how the boundaries impacted incumbents and so, it appears that SB2 boundaries would have resulted in Sen. Baca and Sen. Sanchez, both GOP, competing in the same newly drawn district, just as Democrat Senators O’Neill and Ortiz y Pino would compete for a Senate seat in a redrawn district. However with Sen. Ortiz y Pino not seeking re-election, this will not impact the Dems. It appears that the committee substitute undoes the boundaries that would have created two GOP incumbents facing off against one another. It appears that the committee substitute includes shifting some of Sen. Pinto’s district and giving it to Sen. Muñoz, a request from Sen. Muñoz that splits the indigenous vote and caused strong opposition to the substitute among those constituents making comment, but also facilitated achieving a 7-2 Do Pass vote, with two Dems. dissenting (Sens. Ivey-Soto and Lopez), but receiving support from all the GOP Senators.Anonymous
Could it be any more obvious that changing the GOP district boundaries to prevent two GOP incumbents from having to run against each other was done purely to get GOP support for this map? Now the Dems can say that they achieved bipartisan agreement on a map that disregarded months of bipartisan CRC work. The Senate Judiciary Committee also completely disregarded input from indigenous people and nearly 40 other constituents making comments. Instead, they selected a map that violated all the principles laid out by the CRC. Democratic leadership will focus on celebrating the bipartisan vote, not the gerrymandered result. No wonder Candelaria asked to be excused.
The very clear incumbent protection implemented by Sen. Judiciary may have achieved bipartisan support, but as the Annenberg Center has noted, cited from today’s FDNM email, the practice undermines democracy.
“By colluding in order to draw district lines that protect incumbents, the parties deny new candidates and also emerging constituencies the chance to participate in competitive elections. The lack of competition may lead to the stagnation of the political process. We hold elections precisely because the outcome is, or should be, unpredictable.” – The USC Annenberg Center
During the Sen. Judiciary hearing, Senators were well prepared with statistics to justify their gerrymandering, asserting they were supporting the vast majority of indigenous priorities, even having percentages at hand to substantiate their revisionist history, with quotes like, “67% of the changes we made were consistent with the Tribal Consensus.” You either support a consensus or you don’t; you can’t eviscerate the intent behind the SB2 map supported by the tribal community and still claim to honor them. You didn’t honor them; you disregarded them so you could address the needs of the Sen. Finance Committee Chair (Muñoz) and two incumbent Republican Senators.
This morning the NM Political Report, published a piece focused on Native reaction to the process:
Conroy Chino, a registered lobbyist for the Pueblo of Taos, asked committee members to consider the amount of time and effort it took for the coalition to come to an agreement and urged them not to adopt the substitute bill.
“You can only imagine the challenge of bringing together 22 sovereign governments and having them arrive at a consensus and an agreement,” Chino said. “It was quite challenging and required careful deliberation and meaningful discussion in order for them to arrive at an agreement on a map.”
Pueblo of Zia Governor Jerome Lucero expressed the importance of lawmakers honoring the wishes of Native governments and asked them to adopt a state Senate map that includes the result of the months of work from the coalition.
“For many redistricting cycles throughout history, our voice was often ignored from this important democratic process,” Lucero said. “As a result, our people suffered extreme voter discrimination and lack access to representation which champions the issues at the heart of our survival. It was simply easy to ignore our people. Those are the days we do not want to go back to.”“Senate Dems at Odds with Native American Governments over Senate Redistricting,” by Andy Lyman, NM Political Report
When it comes time for Democrats to ask the New Mexico indigenous community to support their campaigns in the future, the people of that community will remember this indefensible vote.
Enough on SB2. It gets worse as we move on to SB1, the US Congressional District boundary map that sailed through the legislature and is now on the way to the Governor.
SB1 U.S. Congressional Map, AKA the Yvette Herrell Retirement Map
The map below reflects brazen partisan gerrymandering. Introduced by Sen. Joseph Cervantes and Rep. Georgene Louis, SB1 designates boundaries for NM’s 3 US Congressional Districts. It quickly gained favor among Democratic leadership, sailing through Senate Rules and Judiciary before passing on the Senate floor on largely party lines, with no GOP Senator voting yes and only one defecting Dem., Sen. Candy Sweetser. In this map, the 1st Congressional District would continue to encompass most of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho and surrounding communities but would also take in all of Lincoln County, including Ruidoso.
Importantly, part of this redrawing would push ABQ’s South Valley into CD2. While Sen. Cervantes tried to justify this move, it is hard to miss that CD2 would lose a big chunk of conservative Lincoln County votes while adding voters from a more Democratic South Valley. It seems clear the intent was to distribute enough CD2 red voters to CDs 1 and 3 while packing Democratic voters from ABQ into CD2. In theory, the end result would be CD 2 turning a winnable purple, while retaining enough blue strength in CD 1 and 3 to remain blue. With fairly drawn boundaries, a state with roughly 40% GOP voters should have at least some GOP representation in the U.S House, but this map likely will lead to zero. While Retake decries this being done in NM, it is standard operating procedures in most all red states. So New Mexico’s GOP Senators’ sanctimonious outrage should be dismissed out of hand. But principled Dems are also outraged.
One of the leaders of Retake Our Democracy’s legislative advocacy team, Michael Sperberg-McQueen, has followed the special session closely, and was quoted extensively in the Santa Fe New Mexican:
“I was very happy when we created a Citizen Redistricting Committee,” he said. “I don’t suppose redistricting is ever nonpartisan, but states seem to have better results when they have independent bodies drawing maps and not people who are necessarily assailed by the exigencies of political self-preservation.”
Sperberg-McQueen said it was “fair to expect” the Legislature to pick from the maps proposed by the redistricting panel. “If you find that you cannot keep your fingers off of it … there needs to be a detailed explanation of why the CRC maps were not good enough.”
“I’m disappointed because, as a member of the Democratic Party, I subscribe to the platform of the Democratic Party, which pledges to fight partisan gerrymandering,” he said. “That pledge doesn’t say, ‘We’ll fight it only when Republicans do it.’ And this map scores worse than any of the CRC maps on virtually every objective measure of partisan bias.”“Northern New Mexico residents voice concerns over proposed congressional map,” by Daniel Chacón, Santa Fe New Mexican.
To a degree, this is a tale of two chambers. The NM House of Representatives and the NM Senate have taken vastly different approaches to the redistricting process, with the House considering CRC maps and revising one CRC map in response to Pueblo input. That map clearly reflects the work of the CRC. As of Sunday evening, none of the CRC proposed Senate maps have even been introduced. One is forced to wonder what the CRC’s exhaustive, inclusive, non-partisan and small “d” democratic process was all about if final decisions on the maps are to be made in an unprincipled, large “D” Democratic, behind-closed-doors process that has ignored the CRC work and crafted maps that are clearly the result of partisan gerrymandering and/or bipartisan incumbency-protection.
In closing, I am worried that this highly fractious and disingenuous process will have long-term consequences, with voters and constituents becoming dismayed, disillusioned, and disenfranchised. How many hearings can you attend where most constituents offer comment in opposition to something, only to have our elected representatives ignore those comments and advance a bill that flies in the face of citizen input and insults constituents’ intelligence with clearly calculated and disingenuous rationalizations for doing so.
If you want to let your legislator know how you feel about SB2 and/or SB1, you can do so by clicking here to identify your legislator at this link and raise your concerns. FDNM has just notified us that assuming SB 2 passes on the Senate floor, it will next be heard by House Judiciary, this afternoon. You might want to focus on House Judiciary, as the Senate appears impervious to input.
House Judiciary members & clickthe link beloq to get to contact info
- RepresentativeGail Chasey18DChair
- RepresentativeMicaela Lara Cadena33DVice Chair
- RepresentativeEliseo Lee Alcon6D
- MemberRepresentativeZachary J. Cook56R
- MemberRepresentativeBrian Egolf47D
- MemberRepresentativeGeorgene Louis26D
- MemberRepresentativeMatthew McQueen50D
- MemberRepresentativeGreg Nibert59R
- MemberRepresentativeWilliam “Bill” R. Rehm31R
- MemberRepresentativeJames G. Townsend54RMember
In solidarity and dismay,
Paul & Roxanne