Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE — New Mexico’s newly created Citizen Redistricting Committee agreed Friday to send three options to the Legislature for redrawing congressional districts — two of which would split parts of the South Valley from the rest of Albuquerque.
The third proposal is more status quo-oriented, preserving the general concept of an Albuquerque-based district that includes the South Valley, a northern New Mexico-based district and a seat covering the southern half of the state.
The harshest debate centered on a proposal called the Peoples Map, or El Mapa de la Gente, designed by the left-leaning Center for Civic Policy.
It won approval on a 5-2 vote over the objection of both Republican appointees to the committee.
Supporters said it would establish a stronger Hispanic majority in the southern New Mexico-based district by moving parts of the South Valley and Albuquerque’s West Side into the 2nd Congressional District.
The seat is now held by the only Republican in New Mexico’s congressional delegation, Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo.
“I think the increase in Hispanic population in southeastern New Mexico needs to be acknowledged,” said Lisa Curtis, a former state senator and Democratic appointee to the redistricting committee. “For the last 20, 30 years, they have not had a voice.”
But Christopher Saucedo, a Republican appointee and New Mexico State University regent, slammed the proposal.
It would break the conservative-leaning oil patch of southeastern New Mexico into three districts, and it would divide the South Valley in a way that doesn’t make sense, he said, keeping the rural parts of the valley with Albuquerque while pushing the more developed parts into the southern district.
“I have a real problem with this one,” Saucedo said.
Despite his objection, the proposal was one of three approved for consideration by the Legislature.
The new redistricting committee — established earlier this year — was designed to limit partisan influence over the drawing of political boundaries. Committee members are prohibited from considering partisan data as they evaluate maps.
But the panel’s recommendations aren’t binding. The state Legislature, where Democrats hold large majorities, is set to hold a special session in December for redistricting.
Lawmakers will be free to choose one of the three recommendations from the committee, revise them or craft their own maps entirely.
New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District is now represented by Democrat Melanie Stansbury, the 2nd district is held by Republican Herrell and the 3rd District is represented by Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez of Santa Fe.
The redistricting panel late Friday also worked on legislative maps and planned to resume its work next week to finish the recommendations.
The U.S. House options recommended by the committee include:
Congressional Concept A. It generally preserves the core of New Mexico’s current congressional districts — one based in Albuquerque with the South Valley, one based in northern New Mexico and one covering the southern half of the state.
It makes some adjustments intended to reflect the wishes of Native American communities and acequia leaders.
It was recommended on a 4-3 vote, supported by the two Republican appointees and two of the three members appointed by the State Ethics Commission, retired Supreme Court Justice Edward Chávez and State Demographer Robert Rhatigan.
Opposed were the two Democratic appointees and one of the State Ethics Commission appointees, high school teacher Joaquin Sanchez.
Concept E Modified. It would move the unincorporated part of the South Valley — an area south of Bridge, roughly between Old Coors and the Rio Grande — into the southern-based congressional district, reflecting testimony from rural valley residents who felt overlooked when lumped in with Albuquerque.
The 1st Congressional District would include the rest of Albuquerque and the bulk of Rio Rancho, creating a largely urban district.
Native American residents would make up roughly 19% of the voting-age population in the northern-based 3rd Congressional District, a goal of the Navajo Nation.
Justice Chávez, chairman of the redistricting committee, worked on the proposal, adjusting boundaries, he said, to take into account public testimony.
It picked up support from the Democratic and Republican appointees of the committee, winning approval 6-1. Sanchez, the high school teacher, was the dissenting vote.
Congressional Concept H, also known as the Peoples Map. It moves parts of the South Valley and southwestern Albuquerque into the southern-based district.
Hispanic residents would make up 60% of the population, up from 52% when the district was drawn 10 years ago.
The proposal splits the conservative stronghold of southeastern New Mexico into all three districts. Under the current map, they’re unified in one district.
Some disparate communities, in turn, would share a district.
Parts of Hobbs in the oil patch, for example, would share the same congressional representative as Santa Fe, and most of Albuquerque would share a district with Roswell.