Given that most legislative districts throughout the country are drawn to favor a particular constituency, whether a political party, ethnicity, religious affiliation, racial classification, occupation, economic driver or other category, such gerrymandering does nothing other than enhance the seriously troubling divisions and polarization in our country.
If a district is narrowly drawn, to get elected, one must suck up to that narrow constituency, the general welfare thus a casualty of political necessity.
It is likely our legislature will pass and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will sign a bill creating a commission to create legislative and Congressional districts, a “neutral” group to protect the legislature from itself. However, as with most things political, the devil is in the details: What criteria, other than fundamental equality of the number of citizens, will the commission use in drawing district boundaries?
As the number of districts is limited, the criteria used will still be a zero-sum game, the advancement of one demographic, value or objective coming at the expense of others. And there is no way with that calculus to produce multi-constituency districts that will allow representatives to serve the best interests of New Mexico in general and still be re-elected.
The primary objective in drawing electoral districts should be to maximize the ability of a candidate to be elected who will be able to have a political future keeping the interests of all New Mexicans in mind. The solution to this problem is to use no criteria other than population in drawing boundaries.
I would propose that districts simply be population “rectangles,” with their boundaries straight lines drawn between our eastern and western borders. Given the nature of New Mexico, that will come as close as one can to guaranteeing that a candidate for assembly, state Senate or Congress will have to represent the interests of a substantial diversity of voters in order to be elected and, more importantly, re-elected.
While the demographic distribution of New Mexico is geographically conducive to this, I believe many states could use straightforward population “rectangles” to produce not only more fair but more productive legislators.