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Judges Rule on N.M. Redistricting

November 21, 2001

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) _ A three-judge federal panel sent the redistricting of New Mexico congressional and legislative seats back to state courts Tuesday, denying the governor’s bid for a federal takeover of the case.

The panel said Republican Gov. Gary Johnson’s attorneys failed to make a case for removing the issue from state court jurisdiction.

Last month, Johnson vetoed a redistricting plan passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Because of the deadlock, state Judge Jim Hall scheduled trials to redistrict the state’s three congressional seats and 70 New Mexico House seats.

``We’re obviously pleased with the decision,″ said Luis Stelzner, among the attorneys seeking to prevent federal takeover. ``The court went right down the line with what we had argued in our briefs.″

The governor wanted the Republican-dominated federal panel to redistrict the state. Democrats argued Johnson acted improperly and the state should retain jurisdiction.

Attorney Matt Hoyt said the governor was assessing the order and studying options.

Although Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state, Republicans have held two of New Mexico’s three House seats for nearly 20 years.

``Each side is doing its best to either stay in or get in to the forum where their interests lie,″ said State Republican Party chairman John Dendahl. ``We feel the Democratic control of the state judiciary makes remanding to state court perilous for Republican interests.″

States must reapportion congressional and legislative districts after each 10-year census.

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