Court Upholds New Mexico Congressional Map
Attorneys presented opening statements and the lawsuit brought by the New Mexico Republican Party accusing the legislature of gerrymandering recently re-drawn congressional districts.
The suit was filed early last year arguing the districts diluted the Republican vote.
Republicans said this is a case of near perfect gerrymandering done by the Democrats in the Roundhouse. Democrats say the new map doesn’t rise to that level.
Attorneys said they presented evidence to show there was partisan intent to gerrymander the districts; that the legislature accomplished that; and that Democrats wouldn’t be able to justify any other reason for the changes they made.
The defense argued the State Supreme Court wrote that some gerrymandering is permissible; and the other side has to prove it was egregious enough to to actually effectively pre-determine elections.
Rep. Jim Townsend who has announced his candidacy to challenge Alamogordo Senator Griggs in 2924 stated to KQRE: “Senate Bill 1 judiciary substitute, the intent was to make sure the Democrats were elected in those districts.”
However the New Mexico courts disagree with the Republican accusations and ruled in favor of the map. On Friday, Oct. 6, a New Mexico court upheld New Mexico’s congressional map holding that it is not an “egregious” partisan gerrymander.
This decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Republican Party of New Mexico, state Sen. David Gallegos (R), former state Sen. Timothy Jennings (D) and a group of Republican voters challenging New Mexico’s congressional map drawn with 2020 census data.
Previously, the plaintiffs asked a state trial court to strike down the new map and order the creation of a “partisan-neutral” map, but the trial court denied the plaintiffs’ request to block the map for the 2022 election cycle. The plaintiffs then appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which issued its ruling on July 5 holding that partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable under the New Mexico Constitution.
Specifically, the state Supreme Court answered the question of whether “the New Mexico Constitution provides greater protection than the United States Constitution against partisan gerrymandering” with a firm yes. The case went back to the trial court for the court to determine if the map does qualify as an egregious partisan gerrymander.
Friday the trial court found that under the New Mexico Supreme Court’s established test for proving a partisan gerrymandering claim, the map is not an egregious partisan gerrymander.
The court found that while the congressional map does favor Democrats, “The Court does not find that the disparate treatment of vote dilution rises to the level of an egregious gerrymander.”
The court also found that although Democrats intended to “entrench their party in [Congressional District 2], and they succeeded in substantially diluting their opponents’ votes,” given “the variables that go into predicting future election outcomes, coupled with the competitive outcome of the only actual election held so far” under the map the court found that the Republican plaintiffs did not provide enough evidence to show that the defendants were “successful in their attempt to entrench their party in Congressional District 2.”
“If the race for Congress between Gabe Vasquez and Yvette Herrell had been a blowout for Vasquez the ruling probably would have gone the other way,” per a University of California Law School Professor that advises AlamogordoTownNews.com on political legal matters.
Instead the race was competitive and Vasquez won by a razor thin victory with a rematch scheduled for 2024. That race saw Democratic Rep. Gabe Vasquez narrowly beat Republican Yvette Herrell, the previous incumbent, by a mere 1,350 votes — or just 0.7%, thus a tight and competitive race.
The text of the courts opinion is found at https://www.democracydocket.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Rep.-Party-v…
The Republican Party of New Mexico announced Friday that it would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court "on behalf of all disenfranchised voters in the state of New Mexico."
Nationally, the ruling could be yet another redistricting case that affects the balance of power in the U.S. House. And Vasquez and Herrell could square off in a rematch in the 2024 election.
In seeking a statement concerning the case from representatives of the Republican Party of Otero we were referred to the state party for a statement. RPNM Statement on Judge’s Ruling in Redistricting Case:
“Judge Fred T. Van Soelen issued his verdict on RPNM's redistricting case.
He wrote, "the Defendants' intentions were to entrench their party in CD 2, and they succeeded in substantially diluting their opponents' votes…,"
Then based solely on the past election with incumbent Yvette Herrell, who has very high name recognition and identification, Judge Van Soelen shockingly ruled that the vote dilution did not rise to the level of an egregious gerrymander.
The Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman and former Congressman Steve Pearce issued the following statement:
"Today's decision was bigger than Republican or Democrat. It struck at the heart of our Republic, the form of government that allows all beliefs to have a voice.
Judge Van Soelen agreed that there was partisan gerrymandering in the district map for CD2, but we disagree with his ruling that it was not an egregious gerrymander. Our legal team presented a clear case that the legislature intended to and, in fact, did egregiously gerrymander the congressional maps to shift the second district by 18 points in favor of Democrats.
Text messages provided during discovery from Senate President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart reveal her bragging, 'The People's Map was 51.8%. That's not enough for a mid term (sic) election.' In order to get a big enough Democratic swing, she claims, 'we adjusted some edges, scooped up more of abq and are now at 53%.'
The Democrat expert witness also testified that the Democrat lawyers instructed him to design 1,000 maps that resembled the gerrymandered map that the legislature drew.
The legislative redistricting map and all 1,000 of his so-called ‘random’ maps split Lea and Eddy counties, thereby ‘cracking’ the conservative vote in the southeast part of the state. The witness admitted under oath that he had never been instructed to divide a state in the fashion he had been directed to in New Mexico.
The gerrymandered districts disenfranchise the votes of all conservative voters: Hispanic, Native American, Black and all other pro-family, pro-parent, pro-gun, pro-life voters, farmers, and oil and gas workers. Democrat, Republican, and Independents alike have lost their voice. New Mexico's primary industry is undermined, and jobs are at stake.
The Republican Party of New Mexico believes the fight is too important to accept this setback without contest.
On behalf of all disenfranchised voters in the state of New Mexico, RPNM will be appealing our case to the New Mexico Supreme Court."
AlamogordoTownNews.com would have sought a statement from the local Democratic Party of Otero County, however the Otero chapter is suspended from operations and is without an official leader to issue a statement due to investigations from the state party, thus we reached to the state party for a statement
DPNM Reacts to Redistricting Decision
“The Democratic Party of New Mexico released the following statement reacting to the Republican Party of New Mexico's redistricting lawsuit loss:
“It is no surprise that the New Mexico Republican Party lost its bogus lawsuit attempting to throw out competitive, fairly-drawn maps. Steve Pearce’s defunct Republican Party of New Mexico is merely looking to place blame somewhere for their recent election losses.
Crafting of the current maps followed a non-partisan, deliberative process that was informed by and invited expert and public input from communities across the state and subsequently went through the complete legislative process in committees and both chambers. In fact, these districts were intentionally crafted to be less partisan and more competitive than the previous ones.
Unfortunately for New Mexicans, the GOP in our state has become so beholden to the conspiratorial far-right that they continue to try to discredit the electoral process when they lose instead of running candidates who work to improve the lives of everyday New Mexicans.”
The case will be appealed however based on the past statements of the New Mexico Supreme Court and precedent it is unlikely to overturn the lower court ruling.
Candidates Herrell and Vasquez are eyeing a rematch in the existing district based on campaign events hosted to date and where the candidates are active and visible.
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