(Editor’s note: Cheryl Everett’s column is running a week earlier than usual to inform people of a meeting occurring this week.)
I’d wager that most Rio Rancho residents have never heard of the New Mexico Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC). That’s unfortunate.
The group was tasked with re-drafting state legislative and U.S. Congressional districts, which in turn could affect Rio Rancho’s future federal and state funding, as well as policies that could determine winners and losers in economic development and public education policy throughout the state.
In other words, Rio Rancho taxes and property values, as well as New Mexico’s perceived business-friendliness versus other states around the Southwest, could be affected.
For instance, one publicly discussed plan would establish an Albuquerque/Rio Rancho 1st Congressional District.
Most of Rio Rancho, with the exception of an area around River’s Edge, is in the 3rd Congressional district, along with cities like Santa Fe and Bloomfield.
In a new District 1, Albuquerque’s 2020 population of almost 565,000 would likely outweigh Rio Rancho’s approximately 104,000 and drive decisions that could favor Albuquerque’s partisan interests over Rio Rancho’s major voting party affiliation.
At least, being outvoted by larger urban interests has been Rio Rancho’s experience with the Mid-Region Council of Governments, a regional planning group.
Rio Rancho State Sen. Craig Brandt, a Republican, has voiced concern about the 2021 redistricting process.
Brandt noted that New Mexico’s population has not changed drastically since the last census and wondered why it needs to do state and Congressional redistricting at all.
He also expressed concern that combining a predominantly Democratic city like Albuquerque in the same Congressional district with a smaller and predominantly Republican-leaning city like Rio Rancho could favor a partisan (Democratic) interest — something the commission is forbidden from even considering in its data collection and analysis.
Rio Rancho State Rep. Jason Harper, also a Republican, was even more succinct, saying the proposed new District 1 “would create a gerrymandering factor of 15 percent” – referring to the dilution of Rio Rancho’s predominantly Republican voter base by Albuquerque’s even larger Democratic vote total.
Two upcoming public meetings offer Rio Rancho residents and businesses the opportunity to be heard by the CRC:
• Bernalillo: Tuesday, Sept. 28, 3-7 p.m. or until adjourned; Sandoval County Administration Building, 1500 Idalia Road, Building D; third floor conference room;
• Albuquerque: Thursday, Oct. 7 ,3-7 p.m.; Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, 2401 12th St. NW, Room Chaco 2.
To participate virtually, find Zoom information at nmredistricting.org/meetings-transparency.
Rio Rancho’s recent dramatic growth economy merits greater representation in regional, state and federal legislative matters than our city has had in the past.
But we must speak up on our own behalf if we want our city to have “one person, one vote” rather than to be buried in an Albuquerque/Democratic majority. I say this as a lifelong Democrat who is also a loyal Rio Rancho resident.
I urge concerned Rio Rancho residents and businesses as well as municipal officials to make these concerns known at one or both upcoming CRC meetings, and again when the commission’s final recommendations come to the state legislature, required by law to happen on Oct. 31 “or as soon as practical thereafter.”
(Cheryl Everett is a Rio Rancho resident and former city councilor.)