Title

Making His Point -
West Side lawmaker says area is underrepresented

Paper: Albuquerque Journal (NM)

Date: July 24, 2007

In the fickle world of politics, sometimes a defeat is a victory.

Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, who represents District 16, tried during the legislative session earlier this year to get his colleagues to consider redrawing the boundaries on their districts. As part of that push, Maestas asked Attorney General Gary King for on opinion on whether it could legally be done.

During the session, other lawmakers were unwilling to take on redistricting and on Monday, the attorney general's office issued a nonbinding opinion stating it couldn't.

Maestas, however, said he knew it was a longshot, but it got attention for the problem of the high growth area of the West Side and Rio Rancho.

"My goal was to get some attention for this issue and I think it worked," Maestas said. "I think the leadership (of the Legislature) are more aware of this disparity."

Maestas' point is that so many people have moved to the West Side since the last redistricting of state house and senate districts that those residents are underrepresented. Redistricting occurs every 10 years after the census. The last census was taken in 2000.

Maestas said he had asked for the attorney general review during the session to bolster his claim that redistricting could occur at anytime. In his opinion, however, King says redistricting legislative districts can occur only once after a census. And King says the state constitution backs him up.

"State constitutional framers generally prohibited reapportionment more than once every 10 years because they wanted to ensure that state legislatures could not reapportion themselves periodically for purely partisan reasons," King writes in his opinion.

Maestas, who is an attorney, says recent U.S. Supreme Court cases on redistricting in Texas are contrary to the attorney general's opinion, and redistricting could be allowed.

Maestas was elected to the District 16 seat in November 2006. One of his campaign issues was pushing to get the West Side legislative lines redrawn.

He added, though, that he was essentially going to let the issue drop. Not only would a challenge to the opinion cost a lot in legal expenses, but there was little incentive for the state's other lawmakers to redraw district lines.

"More than likely, the West Side would pick up at least two seats in the House, which means that someone would lose those two seats," Maestas said. "There is little willpower to change districts."

  Caption:
MAESTAS: "My goal was to get some attention for this issue"

Copyright (c) 2007 Albuquerque Journal

Author: RORY MCCLANNAHAN Journal Staff Writer

Section: Front Page

Page: 1

Copyright (c) 2007 Albuquerque Journal