Editor’s note: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the special session’s Senate Bill 2, updating the boundaries of New Mexico’s state senate districts based on 2020 Census data, on Thursday, Jan. 6.
Valencia County commissioners unanimously approved new commission district boundaries last month, a process required every 10 years after the federal census to ensure each of the five districts contains about the same number of people.
Redistricting has also been completed for the three U.S. Congressional districts in New Mexico, as well as for the state Senate and House of Representatives.
Little change to county commission districts
With the approval of Plan A, one of three redistricting plans presented to the Valencia County commissioners, boundaries for the five commission districts will remain largely the same.
During a Dec. 21 workshop with Rod Adair, of New Mexico Demographic Research, Adair said Plan A changed the current district boundaries the least, leaving local communities intact and represented by only one commissioner.
“The goal of redistricting is to make districts that are fair and reasonable,” said Adair, who did the redistricting for the county in 2011. “We have to have even populations in each district to make sure each board member has equal power, to make sure city, county and school board are not discriminating against ethnic groups.”
Adair noted the ethnic population in Valencia County was distributed almost perfectly evenly throughout the county, which meant each of the commissioners represented about the same percentage of Hispanic, Anglo and voters of other ethnicities.
With a 2020 population of 76,025 people, Valencia County lost about 544 people in the last decade, resulting in 15,241 being the ideal number of people per commission district, Adair said. County commission districts are allowed to have a deviation of a maximum of 5 percent higher or lower than that ideal number, he added.
After the census, populations in Districts 1, 3 and 4 were out of deviation, with District 1 at 10.9 percent higher than the ideal population, and Districts 3 and 4 lower than the allowed percentage.
“Three districts were out of deviation and two were with in the allowable deviation, but you can’t say we’ll leave Districts 2 and 5 untouched,” Adair said. “You have to make up the short amount in Districts 3 and 4 from somewhere, and District 1 has to lose some. The idea is to present a plan with the least amount of change; incumbents and voters like that.”
The other two plans Adair presented — B and C — had issues, such as splitting voting precincts and communities, which lead the commissioners to reject them in favor of Plan A.
One factor the commission also considered was the cost the county would bear to notify voters of redistricting changes.
“I think Plan A has the least amount of changes and notifications, which means less cost to the county,” said Valencia County Commissioner Joseph Bizzell.
Valencia County Bureau of Elections Director Candace Teague said once all redistricting was completed at the county, state and federal levels, the Valencia County Clerk’s office would send out voter information cards to registered voters who experienced a change in one or more of their districts.
“Any time a change is made to a voter’s district, by statute, we do send a letter and voter information cards,” Teague said. “The card stock for the cards is paid for by the (New Mexico Secretary of State) and we pay the rest. Only those who are changed are notified.”
County Commission District 1, represented by Gerard Saiz, takes in the far western edge of the village of Bosque Farms, in the area of Velvet Lane and Willow Trail, then runs south along the east side of the Rio Grande to N.M. 6 — Main Street in Los Lunas — then goes west along the north side of N.M. 6 out past AT&T Road.
The district takes in the Huning Ranch subdivision, south of N.M. 6, then east of Interstate 25, it runs south to Morris Road.
District 2, represented by Troy Richardson, takes in the communities of Meadow Lake, El Cerro Mission, El Cerro and Tomé, with the southeast corner marked by the intersection of Manzano Expressway and South Rio Del Oro Loop.
District 3, represented by David Hyder, is the largest of the districts geographically, but takes in a great deal of Valencia County with no residents. It includes Monterey Park and Las Maravillas, running south on the east side of Manzano Expressway all the way to the far southeast corner of the county, then running to the west, taking in part of Rio Communities, across the interstate up onto Belen’s West Mesa and out to Highland Meadows.
District 4, represented by Joseph Bizzell, is predominately south of N.M. 6 and covers part of the community of San Clemente, takes in parts of the city of Belen, communities of Los Chavez and Adelino west to Manzano Expressway, and Jarales to the South.
District 5, represented by Jhonathan Aragon, includes the majority of Bosque Farms, part of the Pueblo of Isleta and all of the town of Peralta, going south to North El Cerro loop, then dipping south again along the west side of N.M. 47 and crossing the river to take in the area south of Miller Road to Peyton Road.
Two senators in same district, one representative lost
Redistricting for the New Mexico Legislature is half done, with the governor signing off on the new House of Representatives map on Dec. 29.
The plan for the New Mexico Senate is still up in the air as of this writing, with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham having until Thursday, Jan. 6, to authorize the new map.
The senate map was approved by both chambers, but not without objections by local Sen. Greg Baca (R-District 29).
The new map shifts Baca’s district south, pushing it out of Bernalillo County and starting it’s northern most boundary in Bosque Farms, then running south along the valley through Peralta and along N.M. 47 through Tomé and Adelino, on the west side of the river in Los Chavez, Belen and Jarales, down to Bosque then into Socorro County.
With the new configuration, District 29 takes in the community of Veguita, where District 30 Sen. Joshua Sanchez, a Republican, lives.
Baca said barring any changes of residency for either he or Sanchez, the current map being vetoed or changed, they both live in District 29, which will create a conflict for the incumbents in the next election in 2024.
“The last maps (from 2011) are in effect until the next election cycle,” Baca said.
The senator said having him and Sanchez in the same district wasn’t especially upsetting, but he felt the overall process of the senate redistricting was problematic.
“Generally, I was very disappointed in the whole process. We set out last year and set up the Citizens Redistricting Committee, which gave us iterations (of maps) for Congress, the House and Senate, and in no instance were any of those maps passed,” he said.
Baca said lines were redrawn by members of the House and Senate for reasons purely based on partisan politics, continuing to say the Legislature should be required to accept one of the three iterations offered by the committee.
“I think Sen. Sanchez and I paired in most of them and we never sought to undo that, but we want fair representation for the public. When you have legislators drawing their own lines, it’s for incumbency protection and gaming seats for voting power in the Legislature,” the senator said.
Baca said maps pushed forward by Democrats were done “under the guise of fair racial and cultural representation,” but at the end of the process, the Hispanic population in New Mexico actually lost seats in the Roundhouse.
“It felt disingenuous. As a minority majority state, we are about 50 percent and by (the Democrat’s) reasoning, that would have resulted in 21 seats being Hispanic leaning,” he said. “Instead, they moved Hispanic-influenced districts from 17 to 15. I kind of took it as a personal shot.”
District 30 now covers western Valencia County, including parts of the city of Belen north of W. Reinken Ave. and Aragon Road, and continues west through Cibola County.
Senate District 39, represented by Democrat Liz Stefanics, still comes over the East Mountains, taking in much the east side of Valencia County, including the communities of Meadow Lake, El Cerro Mission, Monterey Park, Las Maravillas, voting precinct 47 in Rio Communities and areas east of N.M. 47, south into Tierra Grande and Socorro County.
In the House of Representatives, Valencia County lost a member its delegation — Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-50) no longer has part of the county. There are still four districts representing the community — Districts 7, 8, 49 and 69.
Both Districts 7 and 8 shifted south, with District 8 — now vacant since Republican Alonzo Baldonado’s sudden resignation on Dec. 31 — taking in Bosque Farms, Peralta, part of Isleta west of N.M. 314 and communities south of N.M. 6 along N.M. 314, including northern Belen.
Rep. Kelly Fajardo’s District 7 includes Belen, the communities of Adelino, Tomé, El Cerro, El Cerro Mission, Monterey Park and Meadow Lake.
District 49, held by Republican Gail Armstrong, comes up from the south out of Socorro County and wraps around the southern end of Districts 7 and 8, taking in the communities of Bosque and Jarales, Rio Communities and up to Las Maravillas on the east of Interstate 25. West of the interstate, Armstrong’s district goes north to N.M. 6, west of Los Lunas.
Democrat Harry Garcia’s District 69 comes out of Cibola County, taking the area north of N.M. 6 in the western part of the county and continuing west to the far eastern edge.
Congressional Districts 1 & 2
The boundaries for Congressional Districts 1 and 2 have also been redrawn, giving Albuquerque Democrat Melanie Stansbury (CD-1) much more of Valencia County to represent. District 1 previously only took in voting precinct 49, which is most of the community of Meadow Lake on the county’s east side.
Now District 1 takes in Meadow Lake entirely, all of the village of Bosque Farms and town of Peralta, and the portion of the village of Los Lunas east of the river in the area of the Valencia Y, as well as the communities of Valencia, El Cerro Mission, Monterey Park, Las Maravillas, Tomé and Adelino.
Additionally, the district includes the Carson Park area — voting precinct 62 — west of the Rio Grande in the village of Los Lunas and precinct 30, which is a geographically large precinct in the southeast part of the county and includes communities such as Tierra Grande.
In southern Valencia County, the western boundary of District 1 is N.M. 47 as it goes south into Socorro County.
District 2, represented by Republican Yvette Herrell, of Alamogordo, includes voting precincts 34 and 47 in the city of Rio Communities, the majority of Los Lunas, the entire city of Belen, the communities of San Clemente and Highland Meadows to the west of the village, Los Chavez, Jarales and Bosque west of the river, as well as the communities along N.M. 304, east to N.M. 47.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.