BERNALILLO — Discussions over how Sandoval County could be redistricted in the latest census — and how the Pueblo communities would be impacted — grew tense during Thursday’s county commission meeting.
Proposals put forth by Rod Adair of New Mexico Demographic Research became a point of contention because the rural District 5 — which includes Cuba, San Ysidro, Zia Pueblo, Jemez Pueblo and Cochiti Pueblo, among others — isn’t as densely populated as the City of Rio Rancho, which is included in Districts 1 through 4. The county’s current population is almost 149,000, but Rio Rancho’s population is roughly 104,000.
Under the plan designed by Bernalillo resident Isaac Chavez and backed by District 1 Commissioner Katherine Bruch, District 3 would extend from Golf Course Road Northeast into River’s Edge. District 5 would extend south to around 29th Avenue in the Rio Rancho area.
District 1’s Native American population would increase to 26 percent, and District 5’s Native American population would drop to 22.5 percent. Additionally, the Hispanic population in Districts 2 and 5 would both increase by 8.2 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively. The White population for District 3, 4 and 5 would see increases of 4.1 percent or higher, and Districts 1 and 2 would see decreases in its White population by 5.6 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively.
Click here to see Chavez’s and Bruch’s map.
Adair presented four map proposals that’d include the following changes:
- Plan A – District 3 would extend out to the far north tip of Cabezon Road southwest of the Zia Pueblo, and District 4 would extend out to include more of the Rio Rancho Estates neighborhood up to around Valor Road. The District 1 Native American population would go from its current amount of 15.8 percent to 4.3 percent, while District 5 would go from 35.3 percent to 43.5 percent. Additionally, District 1’s White population would increase from 38 percent to 50.5 percent. Click here to see the map.
- Plan B – The map for District 3 would look similar to Plan A. The District 1 Native American population would drop to 3 percent, while The District 5 Native American population would increase to 46.4 percent. The District 1 White population would increase to 50.4 percent. To see the map, click here.
- Plan C – The map for District 3 would look similar to Plans A and B. The District 1 Native American population would drop to 3.6 percent, while District 5’s Native American population would increase to 45.7 percent. The District 1 White population would increase to 47.5 percent. Click here to see the map.
- Plan D – District 3 would start from around Riverside Drive and extend west and north to around Cabezon Road and Gasco Road. THe District 1 Native American population would drop to 4.2 percent, while the District 5 Native American population would increase to 45.6 percent. The District 1 White population would increase to 51 percent. See the map by clicking here.
In all four plans, the Hispanic population in Districts 1, 2 and 3 would either stay basically the same or change by a few percentage points, with the numbers ranging from 38.9 percent to 44.2 percent.
“We’re hoping to preserve communities of interest and make maps that are logical based on the distribution of population. And certainly, I want to protect identifiable minority voting rights,” Adair told the Observer, adding he factored in things like Rio Rancho’s recent population growth.
The Democratic Party of Sandoval County said in a press release that Adair’s proposals “are a blatant, partisan attempt to create a majority of Republican districts, even though Democrats constitute a majority of registered Sandoval County voters.”
Chavez told the Observer his plan keeps smaller communities like Bernalillo and Corrales whole, and it provides Rio Rancho with “adequate representation.”
“The goal with my map was to make it more equitable. I don’t think it’s reasonable to have all the Pueblos in the county in one district,” he said. “My map follows infrastructural logic. It is compact. It is in fact not a radical departure from previous districts; it’s the most closely aligned with them, and it’s fair.”
Adair told the Observer Chavez’s plan is “embarrassing,” adding it “completely shatters and divides and dilutes the Native American voting capability.”
However, Chavez said he doesn’t see it that way, citing Pueblo community members’ concerns that Adair’s plans would disenfranchise them.
Pueblo community members and a handful of other individuals voiced opposition to Adair’s redistricting proposals, prompting applause from the seating area. Public comments submitted online can be read here.
Commissioner Jay Block, District 2, told the board Adair has a deep understanding of mapping because of time he’s spent all over the state, while District 3 Commissioner Michael Meek said district maps must factor in population growth.
Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald of District 5 told the board the county needs to spend more time looking at the maps, but added it’s unfair to put Native communities into just one district. Bruch told the board she was “appalled” by the presentation on Adair’s map proposals, something she described as “Republican maps,” and that Thursday’s discussions were “politicized.”
County Commission Chairman Dave Heil, who represents District 4, told the Observer the county’s on a short timeline to decide on what the next official map will look like, adding the county has to make it “work out somehow.”
“Just because you’re a commissioner in Rio Rancho doesn’t mean you don’t care about the rest of the county. I’ve been fighting issues for the rest of the county since I’ve been on this commission,” he said, citing a few projects, including work on County Road 11. “Rio Rancho in a sense also depends on the rest of the county (for recreation and other services).”