Friday, August 26, 2011

Senator Wirth and Representative Egolf to Hold District Meetings to Discuss Redistricting and the Special Session

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Senator Wirth, Representative Egolf

State Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) and State Representative Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) have scheduled two neighborhood meetings with residents of their districts. The first will be Tuesday, August 30th, at the Hondo Fire Station at the intersection of Old Las Vegas Highway and Highway 285 near the Eldorado exit, from 7:00 to 8:30 PM. The second will be Thursday, September 1st, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in the Lamy/Peralta Rooms.

“With the population growth in the state, the boundaries of Santa Fe’s state legislative districts are going to change. Certain proposals also change representation on the Public Regulation Commission for residents in Eldorado. We look forward to input from our constituents on the various redistricting plans,” the legislators said.

Senator Wirth and Representative Egolf have made district meetings a regular part of their legislative duties, and both underscore their importance.

“These meetings are one of the most important things we do,” Egolf said. “They are a way for us to better understand individual and neighborhood concerns, while discussing the best way to proceed on legislative issues.”

Wirth represents State Senate District 25. Egolf represents State House District 47. Since their districts overlap, they work together whenever possible in addressing issues of concern to Santa Fe residents.

August 26, 2011 at 05:20 PM in Events, NM Legislature 2011, Redistricting, Santa Fe | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sterling Fluharty: State House Redistricting Maps by Research and Polling Understate Democratic Performance

SterlingFluharty This is the third of a series of guest posts on redistricting issues by Sterling Fluharty, who lives in Albuquerque and is the owner of Southwest Political Services, which specializes in campaigns, polling, redistricting, lobbying, coalition building and publishing.

Note: Click on images below for larger versions.

This is a technical post that I am writing in preparation for my redistricting presentation tomorrow, Saturday, August 13, from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM, at Kosmos Coffee House, which is located in Albuquerque at 1715 Fifth Street NW.  I hope you find this post useful and informative, since it explains how the redistricting concept maps prepared by Brian Sanderoff and Research & Polling for the state legislature understate Democratic performance.  I will illustrate this problem below with an analysis of State House districts and then propose some solutions.

Problems With Sanderoff's Methodology
Over the last decade, New Mexico State House races were contested (meaning both a Republican and a Democrat ran) in 43 percent of cases.  Another way of looking at these races is that at least one contested general election happened in 60 of the 70 House Districts (86 percent) since 2002.  Sanderoff and Research & Polling decided to ignore these election results in State House races when they calculated political performance measures for redistricting.  They assumed it was more accurate to average the results of statewide races (such as president, governor, secretary of state, treasurer, and auditor) and to ignore outliers (where the winner received 20 points or more than their opponent).

This methodology led Sanderoff and Research & Polling to claim that the average statewide Democratic performance, in all kinds of races, is just 53 percent.  If their calculations had included outliers (such as landslide victories by Lewis, Richardson, Bingaman, and Udall), then their exact same methodology would have shown that statewide Democratic performance was 55.5 percent.  And if Sanderoff and Research & Polling had used a basic votes cast model, as shown below, they would have found that Democrats received 56 percent of all votes cast for candidates (from major parties) in State House races over the last decade.

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Click images for larger versions

Sanderoff and Research & Polling's conclusions about statewide political performance are more reflective of what happened in the 2010 elections than of trends over the last decade.  The State House concept maps they have prepared so far apparently assume an electoral realignment took place in 2010. On average, the House maps show Republicans holding 33 seats, which is the same number they won in the last general election. Democrats are slated to receive 37 seats in the House, which is five lower than what they won on average in elections over the last decade.  If Democrats have held, on average, 60 percent of the seats in the State House since 2002, then an estimated political performance of only 53 percent for State House Democrats is too low.

National Surveys Point to Problems
National surveys show that Sanderoff and Research & Polling have underestimated Democratic performance in our state.  The State of States project of Gallup provides data for New Mexico voters over the last three years, which appear below with my calculations of what this means for Republican and Democratic performance in our state:

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If you compare this table of Gallup data with the above votes-cast chart, you will see that Gallup fairly accurately predicted the outcome of the 2008 elections in New Mexico, our state's Democratic performance has temporarily dropped a point and a half during the recession, and Democratic candidates in New Mexico received fewer votes in the 2010 elections because a substantial number of Democratic voters did not cast ballots.

Polling from Gallup this year suggests that recent setbacks for Democratic candidates may have been only temporary.

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On the eve of the 2010 midterm elections, only 43 percent of voters nationwide said they would vote a Democrat into Congress.  After the "tea party downgrade" earlier this month, 51 percent of Americans now say they would vote for a Democratic Congressional Candidate.

Corrections Needed
I am arguing that we need to correctly determine Democratic political performance in our state so that we can accurately forecast the results of redistricting and prevent Republicans from picking up more than their fair share of seats in the State House.

Several of state legislators are already a step ahead of Sanderoff and Research & Polling.  They have figured out that by adding two or three points to Democratic performance numbers that appear in the concept maps presented to the legislature they can get a more accurate estimate of statewide political performance over the last decade.  But not enough of them have figured out that this shift applies to an average for the state as a whole, but not necessarily to individual districts.  The below map of current State House districts compares actual election results over the last decade for State Representatives in those districts with the political performance predicted by Sanderoff and Research & Polling.

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The blue districts are where the Sanderoff and Research & Polling numbers understate Democratic performance, with the darkest blue districts underestimating Democratic performance by as much as 21 to 26 points.  Similarly, the red districts indicate where Republican performance has been underestimated.  The white districts are those in which no contested State House races have occurred recently.

This next map illustrates similar patterns for State House Districts in the Albuquerque Metro Area.

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The political performance error rate for most of these districts is within plus or minus five points.  Legislators living in this area should be concerned about whether Sanderoff and Research & Polling can adequately design a seat that is safe for them, given the error rate in their political performance calculations.  An error rate of just a few points can be devastating for legislators who live in swing districts.

Examples of Errors
If you are not yet convinced that Sanderoff and Research & Polling's methodology for political performance is too simple and contains some errors in its calculations, here is a short history lesson, combined with Sanderoff and Research & Polling's rankings, that should help illustrate these points.

  • District 7 is ranked as 52% Republican but it elected a Democrat from 2002 to 2008.
  • District 8 is ranked as 52% Democratic but it elected a Republican in 2010.
  • District 15 is ranked as 51% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2008 and 2010.
  • District 23 is ranked as 52% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2008.
  • District 30 is ranked as 53% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2008.
  • District 37 is ranked as 52% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2006 and 2008.
  • District 43 is ranked as 50.2% Democratic but it elected a Republican in 2002 to 2010.
  • District 49 is ranked as 51% Democratic but it elected a Republican in 2002 to 2010.
  • District 53 is ranked as 55% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2006 and 2008.
  • District 54 is ranked as 57% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2002 and 2004.
  • District 55 is ranked as 57% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2002 to 2008.
  • District 58 is ranked as 53% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2002.
  • District 60 is ranked as 58% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2002 to 2008.
  • District 61 is ranked as 62% Republican but it elected a Democrat in 2002 and 2004.

Sanderoff's Error Rate Unacceptable
If we accept the premise that their current political performance measures reflect election results for the last decade, then Sanderoff and Research & Polling correctly predicted only 89.7 percent of the outcomes of State House races between 2002 and 2010.  I don't know about you, but I believe a 10 percent error rate is unacceptable if the taxpayers of this state are paying Sanderoff and Research & Polling up to a million dollars to provide professional and technical redistricting services to the legislature.

Volunteers Needed
At my presentation tomorrow, I will be signing up volunteers.  I am putting together a redistricting committee who can gather and analyze a wider range of election data and then produce more accurate maps and political performance rankings.  I will also sign up volunteers who can speak during the New Mexico Redistricting Committee meeting in Albuquerque on Monday, during the late afternoon and evening, at West Mesa High School, as well as those who wish to get involved with citizen lobbying during the special session in September.  I will be distributing talking points during my presentation tomorrow to make it easier for people to know what to say at upcoming legislative meetings dealing with redistricting.

Convincing State Legislators
We need to convince state legislators that there is a real danger in uncritically accepting and using the political performance measures produced by Sanderoff and Research & Polling.  Several of the concept maps for the State House propose to increase the number of swing districts in New Mexico (those districts where the gap between Democratic and Republican performance is less than 10 points).  Depending on the size of the political performance errors that Sanderoff and Research & Polling are introducing into each of their proposed swing districts, state legislators could very well end up voting for what they think are seats safe for Democrats when in fact those seats will end up electing Republicans.

This is the third in a series of guest blogs on redistricting by Sterling Fluharty. Click to see his first post and his second.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

August 12, 2011 at 10:03 PM in Guest Blogger, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, August 08, 2011

8/13: Downtown ABQ Democrats Meeting at Kosmos Coffee House

From Downtown Democrats:
Ward 11A Chair Roxanne Allen would like to invite you to a meeting of Downtown Democrats (mostly wards 11 A, B, and C) on Saturday, August 13, from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM at the Kosmos Coffee House, where the Church of Beethoven meets. It's located at 1715 5th Street NW in Albuquerque. As with their last meeting on December 18, the group will serve a free brunch to make it easy for people to come. All are welcome to attend.

There will be two speakers: Chairman Javier Gonzales on what the Democratic Party is doing for jobs and to win back the state government, and Sterling Fluharty on redistricting challenges. This is a fundraiser as well. There will be a suggested donation of $5, although no one will be turned away.

The group members hope to have at least as many people as they had in December. They want to introduce each of you so that people can have a face-to-face conversation with you after the meeting. Unfortuanately, there will not be an opportunity for you to address the whole meeting.

August 8, 2011 at 07:02 PM in Democratic Party, Events, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 05, 2011

8/15: NM Redistricting Committee Meeting in Albuquerque

The state's Redistricting Committee is coming to Albuquerque to explain how redistricting scenarios will affect our city and to listen to what we have to say about the redistricting process. The meeting is set for Monday, August 15, from 3:30 PM to 8:30 PM, at West Mesa High School, 6701 Fortuna Road NW in Albuquerque.

The committee has posted several redistricting plans on its web site. The maps and data show the current and proposed legislative, congressional and public regulation commission districts. You can also draw your own maps and propose them to the committee. You will need to download GIS mapping software (some open source versions are free on the Internet) and the latest do-it-yourself redistricting files.

For more information, consult the Guide to Redistricting in New Mexico and the Redistricting Guidelines adopted by the New Mexico Legislative Council earlier this year. You can RSVP for this event and discuss issues on this Facebook page.

August 5, 2011 at 04:13 PM in Events, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Stephanie DuBois Guest Blog: Many Concerns About Today's Dem Party

StephanieDuBois110 This is a guest blog by Stephanie L. DuBois of Tularosa, who is a life-long Democrat who recently ran for New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner.

I am a 65-year-old Democrat and activist and have been for many years. I am presently the CD2 vice-chair for the State Democratic Party, my 5th term. I am a dog groomer and trainer. I am a certified mediator for Magistrate Court,volunteer. I have run for various offices unsuccessfully, but at least I made sure a Democrat was running. I am an American, a patriot and the daughter of a Pearl Harbor survivor.

I moved to Deming, New Mexico in 1978. I now live in Tularosa and have for 21 years. I had always been involved in politics in one way or another in my native state of New York -- not New York City but Long Island -- specifically, a town called Miller Place, three miles east of Port Jefferson where the ferry went to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

My parents and grandparents were Democrats and, at age 21, I registered as a Democrat as well. I have been a registered Democrat ever since. I have voted in any and all elections where I was eligible to vote -- school, county, city, etc. I have now lived in New Mexico for 33 years.

Ladies and gentlemen I don't know about you, but I am very concerned about our state and our state politics and the direction we are headed.

My county of Otero was pretty much Democratic when I moved here in 1990. Within what seemed to be overnight, we became and still are totally Republican and we now have the unsolicited voice of the bogus "tea party." To be fair, I do like the fact that they question their elected officials. They even go so far to give them ultimatums to make sure they carry out the tea party agenda. When the tea party demonstrates, they make sure to wear or carry a firearm to punctuate their position.

I have many concerns regarding voting, redistricting and the protection and security of our public records -- which should be just that, public. We, as Democrats (and I am talking about real Democrats -- not those who use the Democratic Party for their own personal gain but then embrace Republican philosophies and values), should be watching out for the good of our Party. I think our Party -- the Party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton -- has been infiltrated by moles, Republicans pretending to be Democrats who undermine our Party from within. Are there any real Democrats who will defend our values, civil rights, Social Security, Medicare, etc. out there now?

A couple of things are happening that really scare me -- and I don't scare easily.

Senator Rod Adair: Conflict of Interest
One is the acceptance by Democrats of a situation that allows a state senator to form a consulting company that bids on county contracts to draw their county lines as part of redistricting. He has received, just from two counties that I know of to date, $34,000. However, no one feels this is a conflict of interest.

Senator Rod Adair (R-Roswell), the senator in question, has also garnered contracts from at least two other counties that I know of. When questions about a possible conflict of interest were raised, the answer I saw was, it is a citizen legislature there are bound to be conflicts of interest because the legislators all have jobs outside of their elected positions. That quote was from Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who was a state senator working in the Otero County clerk's office for many years.

Dianna Duran: Answer These Questions
Now today, as Secretary of State, Duran has the power to turn 64,000 voter files over to the State Police to investigate possible voter fraud. She has by-passed the county clerks' offices as the most obvious place to check voter records and not cost tax payers any additional monies. The Democrats have not questioned the impact this will have on us the taxpayers and citizens of New Mexico.

Questions that should be asked include: Are these documents protected? Are they secure? Is your or my name among those documents under investigation? I think we, the people, have a right to know. The only information on a voter card that is not for public knowledge is the person's birth date and phone number. Everything else is public.

Dems Need to Speak Out Publicly
The office of Secretary of State is very powerful, as we found out in the selection of George W. Bush in the Bush/Gore election in Florida. Katherine Harris had a great deal of influence over that election and the eventual outcome with Bush being selected. We don't ever want this Secretary of State to have that kind of influential power.

In states across the country where governors are Republican and Republicans control the secretary of state offices, there is a movement to make sure that minorities and  Democrats generally have a much more difficult time voting. In these states they are instituting things like shortening the time you can register to vote and requiring picture ID. Some of these over-the-top requirements are akin to the old Jim Crow laws that were in effect requiring a poll tax for African Americans who wanted to vote.

We, as Democrats in New Mexico, need to stand together and speak out strongly to make sure that this Secretary of State is not going to run over our elections and make rules that will keep even one person from being able to vote. We can't do that by remaining silent.

I think we need press conferences letting the public know that the Democratic Party is not going to stand quietly by while Republicans and "tea baggers" take our rights away from us -- rights that our fathers and grandfathers thought they were fighting for. I think we should demonstrate in front of the Secretary of State's office and the Governor's office and let them know in no uncertain terms we are not going to stand for them messing with our voting rights.

We are Americans. We are patriots. We won't be silenced!

This is a guest blog by Stephanie L. DuBois. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

August 3, 2011 at 11:20 AM in Democratic Party, Dianna Duran, Election Reform & Voting, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2011, NM Secretary of State, Otero County, Redistricting, Right Wing | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

8/3-5: NM Legislative Redistricting Committee to Meet in Pueblo of Acoma, Gallup and Farmington

The Legislative Redistricting Committee has scheduled public meetings at locations throughout the state in order to encourage public accessibility and input on the upcoming redistricting plan. The committee will recommend new boundaries for the congressional districts within New Mexico, the state House of Representatives and Senate districts, the Public Regulation Commission districts, and the Public Education Commission districts. Recommendations will be based on the 2010 decennial census, the redistricting guidelines adopted by the New Mexico legislative council, and testimony received from interested individuals and groups. The hearings will include sharing of information about the legal requirements of the redistricting process, sample maps and time for public comment.

Representative Mary Helen Garcia (D–Dona Ana–34) and Senator Linda M. Lopez (D–Bernalillo–11) co-chair the committee.

The upcoming meeting takes place over three days, August 3–5, in Pueblo of Acoma, Gallup and Farmington. Work begins on Wednesday, August 3, in the Piñon room of the Sky City Casino at the Pueblo of Acoma. On Thursday, August 4, the meeting moves to Calvin Hall on the University of New Mexico Branch Campus in Gallup, and on Friday, August 5, the meeting will be held in room 9008 of San Juan College in Farmington. Two more multi-day meetings are scheduled in August around the state in preparation for the special session of the legislature that begins in September.

The committee recognizes the importance of redistricting in a democracy. Members and legislative staff are working to ensure that every citizen is represented and that the process is visible and open for public input. Representative Garcia encourages all interested New Mexicans to take an active interest in the redistricting process. “The job of the Redistricting Committee is to develop a variety of plans that are in line with the legal principles that govern redistricting. We look forward to sharing the information we’ve gathered and hearing from all concerned,” said Representative Garcia.

The committee welcomes and encourages public attendance and input. Time for public comment will be allowed each day. For more information and the most current committee agendas and calendars, please click here.

August 2, 2011 at 01:51 PM in Events, NM Legislature 2011, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sterling Fluharty on Redistricting in NM: It Is Time To Start Taking Back Seats From Republicans

SterlingFluharty This is the second of a series of guest posts on redistricting issues by Sterling Fluharty, who lives in Albuquerque and is the owner of Southwest Political Services, which specializes in campaigns, polling, redistricting, lobbying, coalition building and publishing.

Redistricting gives us the chance to put all three of New Mexico's Congressional seats in play for Democrats. But you wouldn't know this was possible if you had attended any of the New Mexico Redistricting Committee meetings this summer. At each meeting Research and Polling has presented its seven proposed congressional maps. The focus has always been on the geographical shifts that would happen with these maps. With the release about a week ago of political performance measures for these maps, it is now apparent that every proposal keeps the southern district safe for Republicans. New Mexico Democrats deserve to take back this congressional seat and need legislative leaders who will pursue this idea.

We Have the Votes

New Mexico weathered the 2010 elections better than any other comparable state. Consider what happened in the last few election cycles. Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado all voted for Bush in 2004. These are the same states that Obama flipped in 2008. If you add up all of the votes that Republicans and Democrats received in these states during the 2010 U.S. House of Representatives elections, you will find the GOP won the overall House vote in all of these states except for New Mexico.

The Democratic share of votes for Congressional Representatives in New Mexico has increased fairly steadily over the last two decades. In 1990 New Mexico's Democratic candidates for Congress received only 41 percent of the overall vote. By 1996 the Democratic share of our state's congressional vote had increased to 51 percent. When Tom Udall ran unopposed in 2002, this statewide figure soared to 59 percent. Between 2006 and 2008, when each candidate had an opponent in the general election, the proportion of congressional votes (for candidates from major parties) that went to Democrats climbed again from 56 to 59 percent.

We Have Done This Before

Not a single Democrat in New Mexico running for Congress in 2008 received less than 56 percent of the vote. Between 2008 and 2010 every single one of New Mexico's representatives in Congress was a Democrat. Some people might tell you that the Obama phenomenon was what gave us an all-Democrat delegation in Congress. But the truth is that our state was already becoming more blue before New Mexicans ever voted for Obama.

We Need This Before 2022

It was no coincidence that New Mexico started awarding more congressional votes to Democrats than to Republicans shortly after becoming a majority-minority state. In 1990 Anglos comprised 50 percent of the population in New Mexico. Census 2020 will find that Non-Hispanic Whites make up a mere third of the state's population. If New Mexico continues to become blue at the same rate of the past two decades, I estimate the Democratic share of congressional votes in our state will be 66 percent in 2015 and 74 percent in 2020. In a few years from now, if we adopt one of the current congressional proposals, Democrats will realize it was a mistake to keep a congressional seat safe for a Republican.

We Need Better Proposals

Research and Polling estimates in its proposals that a Democrat in the northern congressional district will receive between 57 and 59 percent of the vote. Since Research and Polling's statewide political performance numbers underestimate Democratic performance by a few points, they are actually proposing maps that pack Democrats into the northern district and will initially award at least 60 percent of the vote to Democrats running for Congress. We do not need to waste Democratic votes like that, especially when these extra votes could be used to elect Democrats to Congress in other parts of the state.

We Have a Concept Map

With Dave's Redistricting App, it was relatively easy for me to draft a map of three congressional districts where Democrats could win in New Mexico. In terms of geography, one northern and eastern district would stretch from Farmington to Hobbs, another central district would occupy the space between Albuquerque and Ruidoso, and a third district would traverse western and southern New Mexico from Shiprock to Carlsbad. I have been advocating for this kind of map, both online and in print, for over a month.

The website I used to draw this map includes political performance data that demonstrates each of these proposed districts would be favorable to Democrats. If you try out this feature, take note that it uses the average of New Mexico's 2010 statewide election results, which means its political performance measures are based on a year that wasn't best for Democrats. My post next week, on legislative redistricting, will analyze political performance measures more critically and in more detail.

We Need Your Help

With the $1.5 million our legislature appropriated for redistricting, you would think someone—within the company they hired, the committee they formed, or even legislative leadership—would have realized the need to draft and distribute the kind of map described above. As I have explained, New Mexico keeps becoming more blue and Democratic votes will not be spread too thin between congressional districts if they follow the above concept map. We need you to contact our Democratic legislative leadership within the next week and ask them to instruct Research and Polling to draft a map that will accomplish the goals set out in this blog post. Make sure you tell them that we want this new congressional map presented to the public when their Redistricting Committee comes to Albuquerque and Rio Rancho in the afternoon and evening of August 15th and 16th. Please RSVP on Facebook to join me and our New Mexico State Democratic Party Chair Javier Gonzales the Saturday before, on August 13th from 10:30am to 12:30pm at Kosmos Coffee House, in a discussion of our Democratic strategy for state redistricting and how we can prepare for the 2012 elections. And get ready to hold our legislators accountable with citizen lobbying during the special session for redistricting in September.

This is the second in a series of guest blogs on redistricting by Sterling Fluharty. Click to see his first post.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

July 27, 2011 at 07:40 AM in Guest Blogger, NM-01 Congressional Race 2012, NM-02 Congressional Race 2012, NM-03 Congressional Seat 2012, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Save the Date: Major Fundraiser 8/28 for Bernalillo County Democratic Party

RoundLogo
--SAVE THE DATE--

What:  Fundraiser for Bernalillo County Democratic Party 

When:  August, 28th, Sunday, 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Where:  Home of Tim and Sandra Eichenberg

Special Invitees: State Senators and Representatives from Bernalillo County and immediately adjacent counties and other Electeds from Bernalillo County

All former chairpersons of the BCDP are being asking them to attend so that their previous work for the party can be recognized and they can offer their thoughts on the 2012 election cycle

Theme:  A Presentation on and Discussion of Redistricting and the Pending Special Legislative Session on Redistricting by Senator Linda Lopez, Co-Chair of the Legislative Redistricting Committee

Enhancements:  Music, Food, Refreshments

Goal:  $6000.00 to be Raised for DPBC; $20.00 Contribution per Person

FINAL DETAILS FOR EVENT WILL APPEAR HERE MID-AUGUST

Questions? Contact [email protected]

July 26, 2011 at 12:43 PM in Democratic Party, Events, NM Legislature 2011, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sterling Fluharty: Redistricting or Revolution in Albuquerque?

SterlingFluharty This is the first of a series of guest posts on redistricting issues by Sterling Fluharty, who lives in Albuquerque and is the owner of Southwest Political Services, which specializes in campaigns, polling, redistricting, lobbying, coalition building and publishing.

The Republicans of Albuquerque continue to amaze me. Yesterday in state district court they won the right to proceed with the October 4th municipal election and then to redistrict the City afterward. This ruling plays right into their goal of consolidating power on the City Council. Even more impressively, though, they got Democrats and the ACLU to support this plan, without ever disclosing their actual strategy.

All but one of the Democrats on the City Council bought the City's argument last December that redistricting was being rushed with estimated data. They agreed with the City that it would be wiser to postpone redistricting until after the election, when it could be given the attention it deserved. Most or all of those incumbents believed that a delay in redistricting would help keep Democrats on the City Council for at least another four years, assuming they were reelected.

After the failed attempt in October 2007 to recall Councilor Don Harris, Democrats on the City Council gained the impression that Councilors could not be easily removed. Without death, disability, recall, resignation, removal, or a move out of his district, there was no compelling reason for Harris to give up his seat on the Council. What they didn't anticipate was the situation where the district leaves the Councilor, rather than the other way around.

The ACLU has been an unwitting accomplice as well. With their fight for equal representation, the ACLU has given the Mayor the perfect argument for changing the composition of the Council. The City has committed that "as soon as a redistricting plan is approved by the Mayor and is published for five days, it will go into effect." In other words, one or more members of the Council will be redistricted out of their district in just a few months.

The ACLU says it is pleased that West Side residents will finally be represented on the City Council. But as soon as the City's redistricting is completed, the Mayor will exercise his duty, as outlined in Article IV, Section 9 of the City Charter, to fill any vacancies caused by "termination of residency in the district represented." Ironically, these appointments will provide the equal protection sought by the ACLU, while further delaying the right of West Side residents to be represented by someone of their own choosing.

The Mayor will tell us that both the U.S. Constitution and the City Charter require him to make these appointments to the City Council. He will select one or more individuals who can work effectively with his administration and the five Republicans who currently serve on the City Council. And thus Republicans will create a supermajority on the City Council that will prevail until the municipal elections of October 2013.

There may not be much chance that this Republican plan could still be thwarted in court. The plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit are currently considering an appeal, but their arguments for an injunction against the election were not compelling enough for the previous judge. Almost all of the case law on redistricting talks about the effect that new district boundaries will have on future elections, not the immediate impact they can have on voters who lose their councilor and suddenly need a representative who lives within the new boundaries.

Coming Up
I have a couple predictions. Both Democrats and West Side residents will have plenty to say about this Republican plan during the public comment period at Albuquerque's 2010 Redistricting Committee meeting this Wednesday, July 20, at 6:00 PM in the City Council Chambers. And the Democrats serving on the committee will have to wrestle with the decision of whether to recommend a redistricting plan that will serve Republicans for two years before it can help more Democrats get elected to the City Council.

Things might get really interesting if Democrats and West Side residents decide to join forces. Perhaps with enough pressure the Mayor could be persuaded to appoint one or more Democrats to the City Council after redistricting creates vacancies. If he appoints more Republicans, imagine the recall elections that Democrats and West Side residents could spearhead in 2012. Or maybe the anger against Republicans will spill over into congressional and legislative races that November.

Get Involved
Regardless of what happens, I am hoping for increased civic engagement. During the committee's meetings last November and December, I was the only person who spoke during the public comment period. The judge just gave the City extra time for redistricting so that it could adequately collect and respond to public input. Let's make sure our voices are heard this time and that justice prevails.

This is a guest blog by Sterling Fluharty. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

July 19, 2011 at 09:01 AM in 2011 Albuquerque Municipal Election, City of Albuquerque, Guest Blogger, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, July 18, 2011

District Court Backs Delay in Albuquerque Redistricting, Affirms Value of Public Participation

The City of Albuquerque's decision to wait to redistrict until after the October 4th, 2011 election was upheld today by Second Judicial District Court Judge Nan Nash. According to an Albuquerque Journal article,

State District Judge Nan Nash just denied an injunction sought by ACLU attorneys, who said it was unconstitutional for the city of Albuquerque to go forward with a City Council election before redrawing council districts.

Nash, in an 11-page opinion, said that stopping the Oct. 4 election “would create considerable hardship” for the city because the election cycle is already underway. Several candidates have already received tens of thousands in public financing and halting the election now would create new problems.

She said that drawing up new districts to account for population growth can’t happen quickly enough to avoid disrupting the election process. “Redistricting cannot be compressed into several weeks,” Nash said in her decision. “… The harm to the public in rushing the redistricting process is considerable.” 

ACLU-NM Responds, May Appeal
In response to the decision against the injunction, ACLU-New Mexico released a statement noting that, as a consequence of their lawsuit, the city has agreed to implement the reapportioned districts immediately instead of in 2013 as they had originally planned. 

“We are pleased that, as a consequence of the ACLU of New Mexico’s lawsuit, the city will redistrict and implement those changes immediately," said ACLU-NM Managing Attorney Laura Schauer Ives. "Our primary concern was that the citizens who live in districts one and five on Albuquerque’s West Side would be grossly underrepresented until 2013, when the city initially intended to implement the new districts. However, in its closing arguments, the city stated that “as soon as a redistricting plan is approved by the Mayor and is published for five days, it will go into effect.” This means that, although redistricting will not be completed in time for the October election, West Side residents will be equally represented a few months from now as required under the Constitution.”

The ACLU-NM said it still maintains that redistricting could be completed before the October elections and the plaintiffs currently are considering an appeal to the judge’s ruling.

ACLU-NM had argued that the city would violate the "one person, one vote" principle if redistricting was delayed. Although Judge Nash said the plaintiffs are "right that the City Council districts are mal-apportioned," she also stated that most courts have ruled that "a temporary departure from the one person, one vote principle, pending adoption of a permanent redistricting plan, may be constitutional."

SWOP Applauds Affirmation of Public Participation
Today's decision also affirms the importance of public participation in public processes, according to a statement released today by the Southwest Organizing Project.

"We are very pleased with the decision of Judge Nash to allow community input in the redistricting process of the City of Albuquerque," said George Luján, SWOP's spokesperson. "The voting rights of historically disenfranchised communities, particularly Chicano and Native American, have been ignored before. Now we have an opportunity to ensure that this doesn't happen again."

SWOP, a 31-year-old community based social justice organization, has been convening community meetings to discuss Albuquerque's redistricting process for the last 5 months.

"We've been preparing to ensure that we have our voices heard," George Luján stated.

SWOP's community meetings have produced a map that is constitutional; adds a greatly needed even district to the west side--district 8; upholds one person one vote; and upholds minority voting strength by adding another electable majority-minority district that is reflective of the demographic shift that the 2010 Census showed.

"We're confident that our proposal will be heard now that the courts have upheld the decision of the city to ensure public input,"  Luján said.

See our previous post on this court case.

July 18, 2011 at 07:05 PM in City of Albuquerque, Legal Issues, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

7/18-7/20: Legislative Redistricting Committee Public Meetings in Clovis, Roswell, Las Cruces

From the Legislative Redistricting Committee:
The Legislative Redistricting Committee has scheduled public meetings at locations throughout the state in order to encourage public accessibility and input on the upcoming redistricting plan. The committee will recommend new boundaries for the congressional districts within New Mexico, the state House of Representatives and Senate districts, the Public Regulation Commission districts, and the Public Education Commission districts. Recommendations will be based on the 2010 decennial census, the redistricting guidelines adopted by the New Mexico legislative council, and testimony received from interested individuals and groups.

The hearings will include sharing of information about the legal requirements of the redistricting process, sample maps and time for public comment.

Rep. Mary Helen Garcia (D–Dona Ana–34) and Senator Linda M. Lopez (D–Bernalillo–11) co-chair the committee. The upcoming meeting takes place over three days, July 18–20, in Clovis, Roswell and Las Cruces. Work begins on Monday, July 18, at the Civic Center in Clovis. On Tuesday, July 19, the meeting moves to the Daniels Leadership Center at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, and on Wednesday, July 20, the meeting will be held at the Corbett Center at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces. Three more multi-day meetings are scheduled in August around the state in preparation for the special session of the legislature that begins in September.

The committee recognizes the importance of redistricting in a democracy. Members and legislative staff are working to ensure that every citizen is represented and that the process is visible and open for public input. Rep. Garcia encourages all interested New Mexicans to take an active interest in the redistricting process. “The job of the Redistricting Committee is to develop a variety of plans that are in line with the legal principles that govern redistricting. We look forward to sharing the information we’ve gathered and hearing from all concerned,” Garcia said.

The committee welcomes and encourages public attendance and input. Time for public comment will be allowed each day. For more information and the most current committee agendas and calendars, please go here.

July 17, 2011 at 05:21 AM in Events, NM Legislature 2011, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

SWOP Demands Community Voices Be Heard Regardless of District Court Decision on Albuquerque's Redistricting

Yesterday, Second Judicial District Court Judge Nan Nash heard arguments on whether or not the City of Albuquerque will be required to redistrict before its October 4th, 2011 election, or will be permitted to implement its decision to delay drawing up new City Council districts based on 2010 census until the October 2013 municipal election. The hearing was prompted by a lawsuit filed by The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to force the City, like other government entities, to redraw district boundaries in a timely manner.

The ACLU considers that decision unfair because the two Council districts on the West Side have more than 80,000 people in each district, while the other seven districts have between 50,000 and 55,000 people.

"The voters are not going to be equally represented on the City Council, and that goes to the very heart of our city government," said ACLU lawyer David Freedman. "This is particularly important to those on the West Side who have been grossly under represented for many, many years. Putting it off is a travesty."

Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) released a statement yesterday pushing for public input no matter what the court decides.

"Our main concern is that Judge Nash takes into consideration the importance of public input into the redistricting process of the City of Albuquerque," says George Lujan, SWOP's spokesperson. "Regardless of which way the court rules, it must ensure that the voting rights of historically disenfranchised communities, particularly Chicano and Native Americans, must be taken into consideration.  This requires an open process with extensive public participation."

SWOP, a 31 year old community based social justice organization, noted that it has been convening community meetings to discuss Albuquerque's redistricting process for the last 5 months. "We've been preparing to ensure that we have our voices heard," Luján stated. 

SWOP has created a map that is constitutional; adds a greatly needed even district to the west side-district 8; upholds one person one vote; and upholds minority voting strength by adding another electable majority-minority district that is reflective of the demographic shift that the 2010 Census showed. SWOP is planning on officially introducing the redistricting proposal to the city, and is planning on giving public testimony to ensure that community interests are heard. 

"A big question for us is whether we will be able to give substantive public testimony, after this case concludes," Luján said.

The hearing before Judge Nash continues today.

July 12, 2011 at 12:57 PM in City of Albuquerque, Legal Issues, Redistricting | Permalink | Comments (2)