New Mexico GOP seeks to overturn congressional map

April 19, 2022 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Attorneys for the Republican Party of New Mexico on Monday urged a state district court judge to throw out a congressional map that divvies up the conservative southeast of the state into three congressional districts.

The lawsuit by the GOP and seven allied plaintiffs holds implications for a congressional swing district in southern New Mexico where Republican Yvette Herrell ousted a first-term Democrat in the 2020 election.

GOP attorney Christopher Murray alleged that the congressional map approved in December by the Democratic-led Legislature and signed by the state’s Democratic governor is blatantly partisan, dilutes the conservative vote and violates state constitutional rights to impartial government.

He urged the court to throw out the current voting map and implement one of two congressional map proposals endorsed last year by an advisory citizen redistricting committee. The committee’s recommendations were not binding.

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Attorneys for the Legislature and governor defended the state’s new congressional map as properly vetted through the political process and warned the court against intervening and getting mired in a “thicket.”

“The political branches worked; they did their job and there is no reason for this court or any court to jump in the middle of it,” Richard Olson said on behalf of the Legislature.

District Judge Fred Van Soelen oversaw the arguments by webcast from a courtroom in Clovis and vowed to rule on the case by Tuesday evening.

State election officials warned that swapping maps now could throw the state’s June 7 primary into chaos as clerks this week confront a Saturday deadline to mail absentee ballots to military and overseas voters.

Holly Agajanian, representing Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said the Republican Party hasn’t adequately explained why it would be more fair to implement a map that wasn’t endorsed by the Legislature and governor.

The Republican Party is citing public comments by top Democratic legislators as evidence of partisan bias in decisions about boundaries of the 2nd District in southern New Mexico.

Democrats hold two of New Mexico’s three congressional seats, command majorities in the state House and Senate and hold every statewide elected office.