ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a lawsuit in state district court, demanding that the City of Albuquerque reverse its decision to postpone redistricting until after the upcoming city council elections in October 2011. The City is constitutionally required to reapportion voting districts every 10 years following the release of federal census data to ensure equal representation among voters. 2010 census data shows that Albuquerque’s West Side experienced significant population growth, while other areas of the city remained stagnant or shrunk in population. By unlawfully postponing redistricting, the ACLU believes the Albuquerque City Council will dilute the voting power of residents on the West Side.
“At the heart of our democracy is the principle of ‘one person, one vote’,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “When one city council district is grossly underrepresented, other areas of the city speak with a louder voice when it comes to making decisions about political leadership, bond proposals, and other important issues that affect us all. Failing to redistrict waters down the vote of citizens living in high-growth areas.”
The City of Albuquerque is divided into nine separate districts, each holding one seat on the city council. By law the boundaries of these districts must be drawn in such a way that each district is roughly equal in population. According to the latest census data, District 1 and District 5—both on the West Side—have 90,170 and 83,165 residents respectively. The remaining seven districts all have constituencies ranging in the low to mid-50,000 range.
For the past three decades following the release of new census data, the City of Albuquerque has moved swiftly to redistrict before the next city council election, ensuring that all areas of the city remained equally represented. This year, with full knowledge of the current major imbalance, the city chose to postpone redistricting until after the October 2011 city council election.
“The entire purpose of census data is to make sure that our government accurately represents who we are and the communities we live in,” said ACLU-NM cooperating attorney David Urias. “By ignoring the latest census data, the Albuquerque City Council devalues the votes of almost two-fifths of the city’s population.”
In its lawsuit on behalf of the more than 170,000 people currently living on the underrepresented West Side, the ACLU of New Mexico asks the court to prohibit the City Council of the City of Albuquerque from holding elections until they have completed redistricting as required under the Constitution.
Read a full copy of the complaint here: Redistricting Complaint
The attorneys on this case are ACLU-NM Managing Attorney Laura Schauer Ives, ACLU-NM Staff Attorney Alex Freedman Smith, ACLU-NM Co-Legal Director Matthew Garcia and ACLU-NM cooperating attorneys John Boyd and David Urias.
June 6, 2011
CONTACT: Micah McCoy, (505) 266-5915 or [email protected]