The Republican Party in New Mexico is fervently urging the state Supreme Court to invalidate a congressional map that has dissected a politically conservative oil-producing area into multiple districts while reshaping a swing district along the U.S.-Mexico border to favor Democrats.
The court heard oral arguments on Monday but did not issue a ruling. The map in question, crafted by far-left Democrat state lawmakers, is contested by Republicans who argue that it disproportionately affects the representation of their political minority in the state.
The stakes are high as the court’s decision could sway which party ultimately holds the reins in the state’s Second Congressional District, where Democratic Representative Gabe Vasquez seeks a second term. This district has become a focal point in national politics as Republicans strive to maintain their slim majority in the U.S. House in the upcoming 2024 elections.
Similar battles over congressional maps are unfolding across the country. Recent court rulings in Alabama and Florida found that Republican-led legislatures had unjustly diluted the voting power of Black residents. Legal challenges are ongoing in various states, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
In New Mexico, a state district judge ruled in October that Democratic lawmakers had significantly weakened the votes of their political opponents. However, the judge stopped short of labeling it as “egregious” gerrymandering. The Republican Party, appealing this decision, argues that the diluted representation of their political minority may persist for the entire decade until the next round of map redrawing.
Harrison, representing the Republicans, pointed to the 2022 defeat of incumbent GOP Congresswoman Yvette Herrell as evidence of the adverse impact on Republican representation. However, justices raised skepticism, noting the thin margin of Herrell’s loss in 2022 and her previous loss in the open race for the seat in 2018 before district boundaries were redrawn, indicating ongoing competitiveness.
Sara Sanchez, representing Democratic legislative leaders, countered that the evidence presented in the case does not support claims of egregious gerrymandering. She emphasized that while every map may favor one party over another, it only becomes a constitutional concern when it results in entrenchment, a level of effectuation not evident in this case.
The broader political landscape in New Mexico, where Democrats currently hold all statewide elected offices, three congressional seats, and two Senate seats, underscores the significance of the ongoing legal battle over redistricting. The state Supreme Court’s ruling will shape the trajectory of political representation in the Second Congressional District and could have broader implications for the balance of power in the state.