ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A judge dismissed a lawsuit against Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry over a redistricting dispute about a year ago that moved a City Council district to the city’s west side to account for population growth there.
U.S. District Judge William Johnson said Friday that the lawsuit lacked merit and ruled that the plaintiffs cannot refile their case, The Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1ln92Sg).
The lawsuit claimed that the new district arrangement made Hispanics less able to elect officials of their choice and that it interrupted “communities of interest” that organize for particular candidates or causes. Attorneys pushing the case said the move diluted the voices of minority voters down to three of nine districts, despite the city’s population being nearly half Hispanic and rapid growth in the number of Hispanics.
Berry, who signed the new districts into law in March 2012, said he was confident the city would prevail. “It’s unfortunate that it cost taxpayers more than $100,000 to have plaintiffs bring this lawsuit forward,” Berry said.
The mayor’s attorneys maintained those who filed the case were trying to score political points in an election year.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys deny that the lawsuit was political posturing and had asked for the case to be dismissed, with the possibility of refiling it, to see what came of the November mayoral and City Council elections. They said a desirable result could ease their concerns about the redistricting.
Berry’s attorneys contended that the November election should have no bearing on whether council districts are denying minority voters’ their rights to equal representation.
Antonio “Moe” Maestas, a state legislator and attorney representing the plaintiffs, said a rule change in March to the city’s process for runoff elections largely mitigated his concerns about minority representation, because a candidate is now subject to a runoff election if he or she does not get 50 percent of the vote in the general election.