In a Sunday letter to the editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican, Melanie J. Majors, the executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG), decried Democrats’ closed-door special session for redistricting, which largely kept the public out of the process.
She wrote, “The New Mexico Legislature’s actions during this past special session show it does not share this value. For months this summer, the Legislature-mandated Citizen Redistricting Committee held public meetings and gathered public comment to create fair, equitable maps outlining congressional, state Senate and state representative districts. It seems much of the committee’s work has been done in vain.”
Majors blasted Democrats’ “partisan enclaves” that eliminated the public’s participation, while many meetings were announced minutes before they started, giving the regular citizen little to no way to participate.
“FOG believes the public’s business should be conducted in full public view, the actions of the public bodies should be taken openly and all deliberations be made open to the public, yet the Legislature has conducted meetings about redistricting behind closed doors, in partisan enclaves, eliminating any public access to the proceedings — access that is an essential element of a properly functioning democracy,” she wrote.
“Voters in New Mexico deserve better. They want to see transparency in the redistricting process and the new districts. A fair process begins with genuine openness and transparency. The public hearings held across the state were an important blueprint for lawmakers. We request all negotiations and deliberations regarding redistricting be conducted in an open and transparent manner that is accessible to the public.”
During the special session, late-night deliberations were common with caucuses in between meetings, and only after angry pleas from New Mexicans were they reluctantly allowed to testify in committee hearings, especially if they were in attendance via Zoom.
FOG’s apparent anger over the process shows that Democrats’ closed-door special session was not only decried by many in the public but even by open government watchdogs.