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N.M. Legislature gets behind only partial mapmaking independence

In a state like New Mexico — with single-party control of government and no independent redistricting commission — gerrymandering is almost a foregone conclusion. But a newly passed bill aims to curb partisan manipulation of election maps in the Land of Enchantment.

In the early hours of Saturday, the last day of New Mexico's legislative session, lawmakers gave final approval to an advisory redistricting commission. Although the measure is not as potent as reform advocates wanted, it could open the door for more comprehensive changes later on.

States are awaiting the final, delayed numbers from the 2020 census so they can begin the redistricting process in time for the next round of elections. Twenty-one states will have Republicans controlling the process, while nine, including New Mexico, will have Democrats in charge. The remaining 20 states either have a divided government or some type of fully independent redistricting commission.

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Big Picture

New Mexico: How one state's story reflects the long, strange journey toward the election

Usually, the results of a presidential election provide the main drama. Usually, it is not the story of how Americans are going to vote that's packed with twists, conflicts, and a constant litany of first evers and never befores.

Of course, almost nothing about 2020 has been usual. In fact, it may be the most historically significant year leading up to a national election in memory. So the fighting over how to hold a comprehensive, safe and reliable election has often been tough to follow in the shadows of impeachment, pandemic and economic calamity.

There are five weeks to go. But the path traveled so far — by good-government activists, election officials, security watchdogs, political leaders, legions of attorneys and regular citizens — becomes clear through the lens of a single state. We've chosen New Mexico. It's more rural, poor, politically blue and demographically brown than the nation. But its election experience this year nicely reflects the calamity the country's already gone through, even before the fight over the actual count begins.

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Poll workers in Bloomington, Ind., wear face shields and hand gloves as precautions against Covid-19 during Tuesday's primary votting.

Tuesday’s voting delivers big warnings about readiness for fall

Major worries expressed by election officials and good-government groups all came true on the biggest day of voting since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country: absentee ballots that were never delivered, long lines for those who voted in person and results that have not been fully tabulated a day later.

At the same time, records were broken Tuesday in several states for turnout in a primary, with citizens seemingly determined to cast their ballots despite the extraordinary circumstance of holding elections during both a deadly pandemic and a time of violent civil unrest.

The principal takeaway is that plenty of work needs to be completed and improvements made in just five months, or else the country may not be able to conduct a safe and reliable presidential election — and potentially one with record turnout.

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