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Morgan Lee
Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. — An advisory board on political redistricting is scheduled Friday to decide on its recommendations for realigning the boundaries of U.S. House and state legislative seats across New Mexico.

Recommendations of the Citizens Redistricting Committee are a nonbinding reference point for the Legislature as it enters the once-a-decade process of drawing new political boundaries.

Several states, including New Mexico and Indiana, are using citizen advisory boards to temper political inclinations without taking redistricting powers away from state lawmakers. Judges might wind up using the advisory maps to resolve redistricting lawsuits.

New Mexico's Democratic-led Legislature plans to convene in December to redraw boundaries for the state’s three congressional districts, 112 legislative seats and a commission that oversees public charter schools.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham holds veto authority in the process. It has been 30 years since Democrats controlled both the governors office and Legislature during redistricting.

Proposed changes to a congressional swing district in southern New Mexico are under special scrutiny.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, Cherokee, ousted a first-term Democrat from the 2nd District seat. The district’s boundaries are likely to shift and contract to offset population gains in a oil-producing region in the southeastern corner of the state.

Herrell-Mountain-Range-portrait (1) (1)_

A proposal from the left-leaning Center for Civic Policy would create a strong Latino majority in the 2nd District by adding portions of Albuquerque into a district that currently spans most of southern New Mexico.

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That proposal has fueled complaints of potential gerrymandering in favor of Democrats by packing more urban communities into a largely rural district.

New Mexico presents unusual challenges in efforts to comply with the Voting Rights Act to preserve communities of interest and give minority voters a fair shot to elect candidates of their choice.

Nearly 48 percent of state residents claim Hispanic ancestry — the highest portion in the nation.

The share of New Mexico residents who identify themselves as Indigenous by race or by combined ancestry was 12.4 percent, a percentage surpassed only by Alaska and Oklahoma.

A coalition of 19 Native American communities have submitted a detailed redistricting proposal. The Navajo Nation has endorsed separate maps.

The seven-member redistricting committee, led by former state Supreme Court Justice Edward Chávez, has held more than a dozen public meetings across the state and plans to endorse at least three proposed maps each for the state House, state Senate and Congress.

The committee includes former state Republican Party chairman Ryan Cangiolosi and former Democratic Senate majority leader Michael Sanchez.

Democratic state Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque says he is inclined to ignore the recommendations of a redistricting panel dominated by political “elites” with no Native American members.

“My concern is following the law, being responsible, drawing maps that are fair,” said Candelaria, who does not plan to seek reelection in 2024. “I have a pretty good idea of communities of interest and where lines need to be drawn.”

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