A committee tasked with drawing election district boundaries on behalf of a coalition of Native American communities on Friday submitted a proposal that would dramatically shake up the state’s three congressional districts.
Under the plan created by the the All Pueblo Council of Governors’ Ad Hoc Redistricting Committee, the northernmost 3rd Congressional District, which includes Santa Fe, would extend down into what is now the 2nd Congressional District in Southern New Mexico to incorporate portions of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. That also would expand the Albuquerque-centric 1st Congressional District to the southwest to “unpack some of that population and political power and get it distributed to the south,” said Keegan King of Acoma Pueblo, a committee co-chairman.
The Ad Hoc Redistricting Committee, which also submitted proposals for state House and Senate districts, completed the effort on behalf of New Mexico’s 19 pueblos and the Jicarilla Apache Nation to ensure Indigenous people in the state maintain a political voice and voting rights — and even to increase their influence.
Native Americans make up 12.4 percent of the state’s population, according to 2020 census data. They now hold a majority of votes in six state House districts and three Senate districts in the northwestern region, said Casey Douma of Laguna Pueblo, another co-chairman of the Ad Hoc Redistricting Committee.
Maintaining districts with a majority of Native American voters — in the 60 percent to 65 percent range — “provides an opportunity for Native Americans to elect candidates of their choice, whether that candidate is Native American or not,” he said.
King said the group’s House redistricting proposals aim to “bump up the influence of tribes in the region.”
Redistricting, which states are required to do every 10 years using federal census data, is to ensure political districts have nearly equal numbers of voters as populations shift, while keeping communities of interest — such as a city or tribe — intact. The New Mexico Legislature earlier this year created a Citizen Redistricting Committee that will create a minimum of three plans for congressional and legislative districts, as well as Public Education Commission districts, for lawmakers to review.
The Indigenous group’s proposed maps for the six House districts in northwestern New Mexico are similar to current maps but even out the Native American population in each district to about 28,000 residents, maintaining a 60 percent voting majority.
At Zuni Pueblo’s request, the group’s proposals split the residents of that tribe between House Districts 6 and 9 to give them a greater voice in both seats.
Efforts to maximize tribal influence in Senate races in the group’s proposal include pushing Isleta Pueblo and much of Zuni Pueblo into Senate District 30, while Senate District 22 would expand to encompass more of the Jicarilla Apache Nation. The districts would have somewhat equal populations, ranging from 46,459 to 48,603 people.
“The pueblos have worked diligently with other tribal nations for the past four months to design districts that maintain a majority of Native American populations,” King said.
The state Citizen Redistricting Committee has until Oct. 15 to present its recommendations to the Legislature, which will convene for a special session in early December to vote on its final choices.
As of Monday, individuals and members of various organizations had submitted nearly 125 proposed redistricting maps to the committee for consideration.
Many of the maps have drawn intense interest. A map revealed to the redistricting committee last week, called Concept D, placed Albuquerque and Santa Fe together in the 1st Congressional District.