While remapping new congressional and legislative districts in New Mexico will surely rile some people up, it will also likely go unnoticed by many.
"A lot of people don't understand the redistricting process." Mary Wilson, immediate past national president of the League of Women Voters, tells SFR. "They don't understand why it's important to our democracy."
With the help of the Public Mapping Project, the League of Women Voters of New Mexico is attempting to get people involved in the process with an online "District Builder." It's a map of the state that allows anyone with internet access the ability to draw up their own new districts.
And it's not a free-for-all. "It will tell you if you're violating any laws that guide redistricting," Wilson says.
That includes the one-person, one-vote law decided under Reynolds v. Sims, the Voting Rights Act and much more.
The software for New Mexico, which went live last week at www.publicmapping.org, was designed in part by Michael McDonald, an associate professor at George Mason University, and Micah Altman, a senior research scientist at Harvard University. Public Mapping made do-it-yourself redistricting models for other states in the past.
The League hopes the builder will get residents involved in the redistricting process, but it's providing nothing more than the educational opportunity to help them do so. That differs from a recent competition in Virgina that used the same software and challenged residents to come up with the best legislative map. Student groups from the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary took the honors and two lawmakers ended up introducing the plan in the state legislature, although to no avail.
But even without a direct impact, the New Mexico model could prompt more people to show up to the public redistricting meetings slated for this summer. That's at least what Wilson and others are hoping for.