The Democratic Party of Sandoval County and several Democrat leaders have filed a lawsuit against the Sandoval County Commission and County Clerk over the redistricting plan commissioners approved in December.

The lawsuit was filed in 13th Judicial District Court on Monday. Several plaintiffs and their attorney, Kenneth Stalter, gave a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the county administration building. Stalter said the plaintiffs wanted the court to stop the implementation of the adopted map and have the county commission redraw it.

In addition to the county Democratic Party, plaintiffs are listed as party chairwoman Alexandria Piland, the Pueblo of San Felipe, outgoing state Rep. Daymon Ely, state Sen. Brenda G. McKenna, activist Aleta Paisano Suazo, candidate for state treasurer Laura Montoya, District 1 County Commissioner Katherine Bruch and Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres. To read the civil complaint, click here.

At the press conference, Stalter said he expects to prove that the redistricting map the commission approved on a 3-2 party-line vote in December was picked to prop up Republican and white voters while disadvantaging Democrats, Native Americans and Hispanics.

“… they adopted a map that does not reflect this community,” he said.

Jay Block

Republican County Commissioner Jay Block, also a gubernatorial candidate, said Democrats were upset because they couldn’t gerrymander to get more Democrats in every district.

“I think this lawsuit is going to fail miserably,” he said.

County spokesman Stephen Montoya said the county acted lawfully and within its authority.

“We will address these concerns in court,” he said.

Among the complaints against the adopted redistricting map, Stalter said the town of Bernalillo is split into three commission districts and the Native American communities are consolidated into one district. He said the tribal communities would have to compete with each other for money if placed in one district.

Piland said the county didn’t solicit input from the tribes and small communities before the first commission meeting when commissioners took public comment on and discussed redistricting. Montoya said the commission picked a redistricting map with solid Republican control.

On the other side, Block said Democrats redistricted without input 10 years ago. The map that passed last year will lead to a Native American county commissioner in District 5, he said, but the Democrats’ redistricting plans diluted the voting power of minorities.

“Their plans were very racist,” he said.

Katherine Bruch
Courtesy photo.

Bruch, who is running for re-election, voted against the redistricting plan in December.

“It lacked what I would consider reasonable effort to listen and respond,” she said.

Torres said he wanted “respect and fairness to communities and to individuals,” and the maps the Democrats supported would have provided it.

Block said the Democrats’ actions regarding redistricting weren’t about fairness.

“It’s about unity of thought and control,” he said.

Stalter said the plaintiffs waited this long to file the lawsuit because they wanted to “bring the right challenge, not the quick one,” with the right plaintiffs involved. The redistricting is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2023.