BY REP. CHRISTINE CHANDLER
House District 43
Every 10 years following the decennial census, the New Mexico Legislature is charged with the responsibility of re-districting: establishing the geographic boundaries for non-statewide elective office to account for population changes. The elective offices under review were the State’s three congressional seats; our forty-two senate districts; and our seventy representative seats. The Public Education Commission district boundaries were also adjusted. This article will focus on the NM house re-districting and more specifically the changes to HD 43, the district that includes all of Los Alamos County.
State and federal law and well-developed U.S. Supreme Court caselaw compel all state legislatures to take many factors into consideration with the aim of achieving partisan fairness and racial/ethnic equity for all districts. The population of each district must be substantially equal in population. Other factors that must be considered are:
- Are the districts compact?
- Is the geographic area of each district contiguous?
- Are communities of interest maintained?
- Are political boundaries respected?
- Is there compliance with the Voting Rights Act?
In past redistricting sessions, the Legislature ran the entire process through NM House and Senate committees charged with seeking public input, holding hearings and ultimately proposing maps for approval by both chambers and the governor. Debate over the maps and boundaries were contentious, mired in claims of gerrymandering, political one-upmanship, incumbent protection, and secret deals. In 2011, Governor Martinez refused to sign the maps proposed to her by the Legislature, which lead to a stalemate that was resolved by litigation in New Mexico state court. The districts that exist today are the product of that litigation and a single district court judge.
This year, the Legislature operated under a different model. With the passage of SB 304 (2021) the Legislature established an independent redistricting committee and assigned it the responsibility of recommending four sets of at least three district maps that meet the requisite criteria for each elected office. The Legislature required the Committee to hold public hearings, seek public comments, and consider map submissions made by interested citizens and groups.
The Redistricting Committee, chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Edward Chavez, worked throughout the summer to meet the October 30th completion deadline. The Committee held hearings throughout the state providing opportunity for in-person and virtual citizen input. Many proposed maps were submitted and considered by the Committee. Ultimately three maps for each of the respective elected offices were sent to the Legislature as non-binding recommendations. A copy of the Committee’s report is at:
The NM House re-districting process that just concluded proceeded relatively smoothly. The Committee met its charge of submitting three maps. The one issue that arose however, was the Committee did not have the tribal consensus input by the October 30th deadline. This necessitated consideration of that input during the session. The House took the position that the recommended committee maps should be afforded significant deference and adjusted per the tribal consensus. The so-called People’s map was the basis for what was ultimately adopted with adjustments for the tribal consensus input. This map awaits the Governor’s signature:
House District 43:
As mentioned earlier, districts must have substantially similar population size with minor deviations. The “ideal” population for each NM House district was deemed to be 30,250 . HD 43 (Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties) grew from ten years ago by approximately 1,500 people. And while 43 grew, other districts in the north contracted, in some cases by many more people. The population dynamics necessitated district 43 “give up” some population in northern New Mexico to help “make up” losses in other northern districts. The Legislature’s House map now excludes the two Rio Arriba precincts as well as a few precincts in Sandoval County that had been in HD 43 since 2012.
Like Los Alamos, Santa Fe grew. This growth compelled changes in the Santa Fe area districts. As a consequence, HD 43 picked up some population in Santa Fe County adjusting for some of the loss of population from the North. HD 43 now includes all of La Cienega instead just part of that historic, traditional community. In addition to Los Alamos, HD 43 will continue to include the areas around the Valles Caldera, Jemez Springs, and Pena Blanca. The total estimated population for the “new” HD 43 is 29,547.
As you can see from Legislature’s adopted House map, HD 43 is more compact and I believe that it is very much in-line with re-districting principles. The area in grey will be assigned to HD 41 and the area in red is the additional part of La Cienega that will be part of HD 43.
I will sorely miss those parts of rural Northern New Mexico that have been moved to HD 41. I made wonderful friends in Cuba, La Jara, Lindreth and Gallina who educated me on the many needs and challenges rural New Mexicans face. I am a better legislator because of that experience and I look forward to partnering with Rep Susan Herrera in her exemplary efforts for her constituents.
Best wishes for the holidays. Please stay safe and healthy.
Note: Maps by Michael Sperberg-McQueen; district lines from New Mexico Secretary of State and Legislative Council Service; underlying map © OpenStreetMap contributors.