Senate Bill 199 (SB 199) enacts the Redistricting Act (Act) which does the following:
• Creates the State Redistricting Commission (Commission), which is comprised of seven members appointed by legislative leadership and the State Ethics Commission. Commissioners must be appointed by April 1, 2021 and must serve until a district plan for New Mexico’s congressional districts, house of representatives, the senate, and the public education commission is passed and approved by the governor, and any legal challenged have been resolved. Commissioners are only entitled to per diem.
• A commissioner cannot be, or have been in the past two years, a public official, a candidate for public office, a lobbyist, an office holder in a political party, a relative or employee of congress, the legislative branch, or the public education commission.
• The Commission must, by October 15, 2021, adopt three to five district plans for each of New Mexico’s congressional districts, house of representatives, the senate, and the public education commission. This must be done every ten years.
• The Commission must also hold public meetings, adopt district plans, conduct meetings pursuant to the Open Meetings Act, and can contract for legal and technical assistance.
• The Commission may develop rules for public hearings, hire staff and enter into contracts.
• There must be at least six public meetings before the Commission issues proposed district plans for public comment. The district plans must be based, in part, on the testimony, documents and information received at the public meetings.
• Requires that when proposing or adopting district plans, the Commission must create plans composed of single-member districts, create plans composed of contiguous territory, and comply with federal law. The Commission may use, rely upon or reference precincts of units of population that are smaller than precincts and may use the most recent census data as well as other reliable sources of demographic data.
• A Commission cannot propose or adopt district plans to favor a political party or incumbent; rely upon partisan data; create plans to dilute the representation of communities of interest; or create plans to intentionally preserve the cores of existing districts (unless the district plan meets all other requirements).
• District plans for the congressional districts must be as equal in population as practicable.
• District plans for the house of representatives, the senate and the public education commission must be as close to equal in population as possible. Any deviation between districts must not exceed five percent and be based on compliance with federal law, consideration of tribal government, avoiding diluting the representation of communities of interest or fragmenting governmental subdivisions, and preserve the core of existing districts.
• Those district plans that are most compact must be adopted. Compact is determined by a measure of length-width compactness or perimeter compactness.
• The Commission is required to adopt, at an open meeting, three to five district plans for each of the congressional districts, the house of representatives, the senate and the public education commission. After the plans are adopted, the Commission must evaluate each plan’s meeting the requirements of the Act, the ability of racial and language minorities to elect candidates of their choice, a measure of partisan fairness and the preservation of communities of interest. The Commission must then indicate which plan best satisfies the requirements of the Act.
• The Commission must send its district plans with written evaluations to the chief clerk of the Senate and the House by October 15, 2021, and every ten years thereafter. The legislature may select one plan from each set of plans and present them, without amendment, to the Governor for approval. Alternatively, the legislature may choose not to select a plan, and present to the Governor the plan that the Commission indicated best satisfies the requirement of the Act.
• A person who submitted data, views or arguments at a public hearing may appeal to the Supreme Court asking for a review of any district plan adopted by the Commission. The person who appeals has the burden to show that the district plan violates law, is arbitrary or capricious or is not supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Court cannot modify the plan, but can either affirm or annual the plan, and can remand the matter back to the Commission.
SB 199 contains an emergency clause, to take effect immediately.