Complaint of NM Supreme Court redistricting decision filed in federal court
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As originally reported by Capitol Report New Mexico two days ago, allies of Gov. Susana Martinez filed a formal complaint in federal court over the state Supreme Court’s controversial ruling that reversed a decision made by a redistricting judge assigned to determine new voting boundaries for races in the New Mexico House of Representatives.
Attorneys for three citizens in different parts of the state — two from the Albuquerque area and one from Curry County — filed the complaint and called for injunctive relief in US District Court Monday (Feb. 13), asking for a three-judge panel to overturn the decision rendered back on Friday (Feb. 10) that delighted Democrats in the Roundhouse and ticked off Republicans and the governor’s office.
In Monday’s filing, attorneys claimed that the New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision and its instructions for a new map “will violate the one person, one vote Constitutional mandate and improperly apply the Federal Voting Rights Act.” In a news release, attorneys said the court’s 4-1 ruling on Friday “amount[s] to racial gerrymander.”
You can click here to read the entire 21-page brief.
The three plaintiffs are not the governor or members of her administration — or even House Republicans, who are hopping mad over the state Supremes’ reversal of a map that was originally OK’d by redistricting Judge Jim Hall, whom the state Supreme Court itself assigned to handle the thorny political and Constitutional issues that come up every 10 years when states have to reapportion districts due to population changes.
The plaintiffs are listed as Claudette Chavez-Hankins, who is described in the court papers as someone who “intends to be a candidate” for the House in District 29 on the west side of Albuquerque. The brief describes the district as “grossly overpopulated” and says that Chavez-Hankins’ vote therefore “would be severely and unconstitutionally diluted.”
The second plaintiff is Paul Pacheco, who is also described as a potential candidate and claims that his district — District 23 — is “overpopulated by 5.3 percent, unconstitutionally diluting his vote.”
The third and final plaintiff is Miguel Vega, who is described sparingly as a “citizen of the State of New Mexico, who resides in District 67, Curry County,” a district that the state Supreme Court pointed to in its reversal as being of particular interest.
In addition to hammering the high court’s reversal for supposedly violating “one person, one vote,” the papers filed Monday complain that the court’s instructions to Judge Hall to re-draw the map is, in one instance, “vague” and violates a number of previous rulings in federal court that were upheld by the US Supreme Court. “The [New Mexico] Supreme Court also indulged itself in the fiction that a partisan-neutral plan is possible,” the filing says, “ignoring the partisan effect of its own Order.”
The governor’s office did not release a statement on the filing Monday but a high-ranking source told Capitol Report New Mexico that they’re confident the federal court will eventually take over the redistricting issue.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ordered Judge Hall to go back to the drawing board and on Monday, Hall sent out a document saying that he will employ Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff to once again act as an expert and consultant in creating a new House map. Hall said through a document released Monday that he expects to come up with a new map by Feb. 27th, as the high court urged him to do.
We’ll see if the feds step in before Hall comes up with a new map, after a new map is created, or if they step in at all.
For details on the state Supreme Court’s remand order, click here.
And for reaction from a Democrat happy with the Friday decision as well as a Republican angry over it, click here.