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NM Redistricting Committee Knocked for Lack of Diversity

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The New Mexico redistricting committee plans to hold a dozen public meetings, including at least two on tribal lands, as 2020 Census data is used to draw new electoral district boundaries. (fairdistricts.org)
The New Mexico redistricting committee plans to hold a dozen public meetings, including at least two on tribal lands, as 2020 Census data is used to draw new electoral district boundaries. (fairdistricts.org)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
June 11, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico is considered one of the 10 most ethnically diverse states, but its new redistricting committee is anything but.

Using 2020 Census data, the seven-member committee will redraw electoral district boundaries for the U.S. House, the state Legislature and the Public Education Commission.

Kathleen Burke, project director at Fair Districts for New Mexico, said 30 of the 69 people who applied were women, but only one was selected.

She contended women, along with people of color and rural residents, will need to rely on committee members to keep the discussions fair.

"There definitely needs to be strong Native American voices, and there needs to be rural voices," Burke argued. "And so, we have asked them to include that in their work plan; 'How are you going to accomplish that?'"

The panel includes two Democrats, two Republicans and three independents, but no Indigenous, Black or Asian members. A representative for Common Cause New Mexico said this week, redistricting advocates will push for a constitutional amendment to the Redistricting Act to ensure greater regional, ethnic and gender diversity on future committees.

Amber Carrillo, executive director for the All Pueblo Council of Governors and a community organizer for two decades, applied for the commission but wasn't selected. She said indigenous people are vital to the state's success.

"You can just look to New Mexico for any number of things, and you'll see our handprint," Carrillo pointed out. "Our cottage industry artisans contribute tremendously to the tourism industry of New Mexico, which is the leading industry."

Carrillo added given the political gains that women, and particularly Native American women, have made in recent years, the committee's composition is disappointing.

"I am hopeful that we will find some redress for the lack of diversity on this important committee, by way of our political leaders coming forward and offering some suggestions," Carrillo urged.

According to the guidelines set up by the Legislature, the State Ethics Commission was tasked with choosing three members, while individual legislators were required to pick one apiece, but they were not required to coordinate their selections.

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