***PRESS RELEASE ***
LULAC Files Voting Rights Lawsuit Challenging ABQ City Council Redistricting
ALBUQUERQUE – Today, a legal action challenging the 2012 Albuquerque City Council redistricting decision was filed in Albuquerque’s State District Court. The lawsuit alleges that the redistricting decision by the City Council diluted the voices of minority voters down to two of nine districts, despite the City’s 47.2% Hispanic population and population growth that has been 75% Hispanic since 2000. Attorneys will present alternate mapping that would meet requirements of Section 2 of the 1965 U.S. Voting Rights Act and both the state and federal constitutions.
“We had a 5-4 vote in what amounted to a partisan decision by what is supposed to be a non-partisan City Council. This not only diluted the voices of ethnic minorities across the city, but also divided many communities of interest,” said Antonio Maestas, attorney representing the ABQ Fair Redistricting Committee. “The inequity of this move would mean a long-term detriment to the Council’s representation of and service to its diverse population, in violation of the Voting Rights Act.”
Legal representation includes Albuquerque attorney Moe Maestas as well as national counsel Luis Vera, General Counsel of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Luis Vera has successfully represented clients in redistricting cases including LULAC v. Perry (Governor of Texas) in the United States Supreme Court. Albuquerque plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Ron Romero of the Barelas neighborhood, Phillip Baca of the Huning Castle neighborhood, Bernadette Miera of Downtown Albuquerque, and Mary Molina Mescall of the North Valley. Both Baca and Miera served on the City Council’s redistricting committee which made recommendations to the City Council. Dr. Gabriel Sanchez of Latino Decisions and the University of New Mexico is serving as an expert witness in the legal action.
Attorneys expect the lawsuit’s decision to occur quickly in order to avoid disruption of the municipal election timeline. For more information, visit the ABQ Fair Redistricting website at abqfairredistricting.org.
BACKGROUND: ABQ Fair Redistricting Complaint
SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT
COUNTY OF BERNALILLO
STATE OF NEW MEXICO
PHILLIP PATRICK BACA, MARY MOLINA MESCALL,
RON ROMERO AND BERNADETTE MIERA,
VS. CAUSE NO.: ___________
RICHARD J. BERRY, IN HIS OFFICIAL
CAPACITY AS MAYOR OF ALBUQUERQUE,
1. This is a civil action for injunctive and declaratory relief to achieve a constitutionally acceptable and otherwise lawful redistricting of the Albuquerque City Council.
2. This action is brought pursuant to this Court’s original jurisdiction under Art.
VI, § 13, of the New Mexico Constitution, the equal protection clauses of Art. II, § 18, of
the New Mexico Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (as amended),
42 U.S.C. § 1973, and 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1983 and 1988.
3. Plaintiff Phillip Patrick Baca is a duly registered and otherwise fully eligible voter who resides in Albuquerque New Mexico, and is identified as Latino. He resides in current City Council District 2.
4. Plaintiff Mary Molina Mescal is a duly registered and otherwise fully eligible voter who resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is identified as Latina. She resides in current City Council District 2.
5. Plaintiff Ron Romero is a duly registered and otherwise fully eligible voter who resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is identified as Latino. He resides in current City Council
6. Plaintiff Bernadette Miera is a duly registered and otherwise fully eligible voter who resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is identified as Latina. She resides in current City Council District 2.
7. Defendant Richard J. Berry is the duly elected and acting Mayor of the City of Albuquerque New Mexico. He may be served at his official office located at One Civic Plaza N.W., Albuquerque. NM 87102.
8. A Census is taken by the Department of Commerce of the United States every ten (10) years.
9. The 2010 Census shows that in the past decade, the population of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has grown by approximately 100,000 persons. Latinos accounted for more than three fourths of this growth while White non-Latinos accounted for just over 8%.
10. Latinos now comprise 46.7% of the Albuquerque population compared to 42.1% for Non Latino Whites.
11. During 2011-2012 the Council Districts used by the City of Albuquerque were changed and that change resulted in a plan of apportionment which minimizes the opportunities of Latinos to participate in the political process and to elect the representatives of their choice.
12. In addition, the plan of reapportionment adopted by the City has unnecessary and unjustified population deviations among the districts. As a result, those districts deviate impermissibly from population equality, resulting in a violation of the rights of the plaintiffs to Equal Protection as guaranteed by the Constitutions and laws of both the United States and New Mexico.
13. Without the intervention of this Court, the City will use this plan for the election of members of the City Council in the upcoming elections.
14. Although this case could have been instituted in Federal Court, the doctrines of Federalism, reaffirmed by the United States Supreme Court in Growe v. Emison, 507 U.S. 25 (1993), establish that it is the primary right and responsibility of the State Courts to require valid reapportionment or to formulate a valid redistricting plan where the State political branches have not done so. It is necessary for this Court to exercise its jurisdiction to consider and remedy the unconstitutional defects in the current Albuquerque redistricting plan.
CAUSE OF ACTION
15. The current redistricting violates the rights of Plaintiffs to the Equal Protection of the Laws in violation of Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
16. The current redistricting violates the voting rights of the named Plaintiffs who
are racial or ethnic minorities in violation of Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973.
17. 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988 provides that in redistricting and other cases that if successful, the Plaintiffs and their Experts are entitled to an award of Attorney’s Fees and Expenses and this Court has the responsibility upon hearing to determine and order such an award.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs respectfully request that this Court exercise its jurisdiction and enter:
in 2012 for the Albuquerque City Council, is in violation of the Equal
Protection Clauses of the New Mexico and United States Constitutions and the federal
Voting Rights Act of 1965 (as amended) 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1973;
current redistricting plan for the city council of the City of Albuquerque New Mexico;
Respectfully submitted, Lead Attorney for Plaintiffs
______/ S/ _____________
Luis Roberto Vera, Jr.
TX State Bar NO. 20546740
Pro Hac Vice (pending)
1325 Riverview Towers
San Antonio, TX 78205-2260
Local Attorney for Plaintiffs
______/ S /_____________
Antonio Maestas, #10470
P.O. Box 7307
Albuquerque, NM 87194-7307