Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – New Mexico’s 19 pueblos and the Jicarilla Apache Nation have filed redistricting plans they say would protect the voting strength of Native American communities and begin to address a history of “voter disenfranchisement and suppression.”
The tribes submitted plans to redraw New Mexico’s congressional district boundaries and, in the northwest part of the state, the legislative districts.
The maps were filed with the state Citizens Redistricting Committee by the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the Native Redistricting Coalition.
“This effort reflects not only an understanding of the importance of tribal involvement in the redistricting process, but more importantly, the need to protect our cherished right to vote,” said Wilfred Herrera Jr., governor of Laguna Pueblo and chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors.
The proposed congressional map would dramatically reshape the 1st Congressional District, currently in Albuquerque and the East Mountains.
Southwestern Albuquerque and the South Valley would become part of the southern New Mexico-based 2nd Congressional District.
The 1st Congressional District, meanwhile, would cover parts of Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, and swing down to pick up Soccoro.
The northern-based 3rd Congressional District would cover much of eastern New Mexico and dip south to include Roswell.
Native Americans would make up 17% of the voting-age population in the district – roughly twice as high as the state overall.
Zia, Jemez, Taos and other northern pueblos, in addition to parts of the Navajo Nation, would lie in the 3rd Congressional District. Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez of Santa Fe represents that area.
Under the plan, the 2nd Congressional District – largely covering southern New Mexico – would include Acoma, Isleta and Laguna pueblos. Native Americans would comprise 5% of the voting-age population.
The second district is represented by Republican Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Sandia Pueblo would remain in the 1st Congressional District, along with much of Albuquerque, and Native Americans would make up about 4% of the district’s voting-age population.
Democrat Melanie Stansbury of Albuquerque represents the district.
For legislative boundaries, the tribes filed a House proposal that would establish six districts in which the majority of the voting-age population would be Native American. A seventh district would be about 30% Native American among those old enough to vote.
The state House has 70 members overall.
The adjusted boundaries aim to connect some western pueblos – such as Acoma and Laguna – with the ancestral site of Chaco Canyon in one House district.
For the 42-member Senate, the tribal proposal would create three Native American-majority districts and two others with at least 33%.
Among the changes would be adding the Pueblo of Isleta and parts of Zuni to the Senate district that already covers Laguna and Acoma pueblos, increasing the influence of Native American voters.
The suggested maps are among dozens filed with the newly created Citizens Redistricting Committee. The panel is holding hearings around the state and will formally adopt its recommendations Oct. 15.
But state legislators have the final say and New Mexico lawmakers are expected to meet in a December special session to take up redistricting. They are free to pick a map recommended by the citizens committee or craft their own.
The 19 pueblos and Jicarilla Apache Nation say their proposals uphold each “tribe’s independent right to self-determination.”
In written comments filed with their maps, the tribal nations said they “worked hard to maintain tribal voting power, develop new voting districts with Native American influence, and to bring New Mexico closer to parity after a century of voter disenfranchisement and suppression.”