Proposed Plans for County Disrespects Native Americans

by | Nov 27, 2021 | Redistricting

Democratic Party of Sandoval County
Contact: Alexandria Piland, Chair
For Immediate Release Nov. 25, 2021

By Isaac Chavez, Vice-Chair, Democratic Party of Sandoval County

At the Sandoval County Commission Meeting of November 18, the people of Sandoval were
presented with a set of maps produced by New Mexico Demographic Research, to be used to
create redrawn County Commission Districts for the next decade.
All four of the plans put forward represented a radical departure from the previous commission
districts. Among the many things changed in these maps, all four created one district which
contained just about all of Sandoval County’s Native American population. From Torreon and
Jicarilla, to Kewa, Cochiti, and San Felipe, all or nearly all of the many distinct Pueblos and
Native groups that exist in whole or in part in our county were to be placed together, regardless
of their consent, regardless of geography, and any connections these tribes may have to other
areas of our County.

Such radical change requires a substantial justification. Mr. Rod Adair, who runs New Mexico
Demographic Research, attempted to offer one at the commission meeting. He said that when
he looks at Sandoval County’s population, he sees that Native Americans have been “cracked”
in order that their voting power is diminished in the County. He claims to have created his
redistricting maps in order to give Natives a voice, and a commission district they can influence.
It’s certainly true that Sandoval County has a long history of ignoring or down right attacking its
Native Communities. Native Americans are an important part of this county and their success is
Sandoval’s success, whether that’s through the businesses and financial institutions they run, or
the unique and vibrant cultures they bring.

Sandoval’s Native Communities certainly deserve a say in how this county is run. The question
is do any of Mr. Adair’s proposals give them that say?

Sandoval County has 18,278 American Indian or Alaskan Native peoples, and if all of them were
concentrated into one district it would constitute a 61% majority, but Mr. Adair can no more
create this district than he can draw a circle around every individual Native in the County.
Not all Natives live on the Pueblos, many live in the cities and outlying areas, so instead New
Mexico Demographic Research creates districts that take in all of the county’s Pueblos and
Chapter Houses to give Natives a weak plurality of about 43% in one district. This is supposedly
giving Natives a voice in our County.

To any sane person it’s placing them in one corner of one district so they don’t have to be
listened to.

The term for this is “Packing”, and Mr. Adair offered a numerical definition of Packing at the
Commission Meeting on November 18th. He said “Packing is when you place 80% or more of a
group into one district”. He then facetiously waved away the concern that his districts could be
packing by saying that the concentrated district only amounted to 43% Native. I will take Mr.
Adair’s definition of packing though, because if you look at Sandoval County as a whole, he has
indeed placed more than 80% of this county’s Native population into one district. Legally, a VRA
district must have above 50% of a given minority group at voting age. None of Mr. Adair’s maps
come even close to this, especially when considering the voting age population.

You cannot consider Gerrymandering without considering the effect any district will have on
the whole of an elected body. If the effect of drawing this district is that the commission
remains under the permanent control of one party or the other, is it really listening to Natives?
More to the point, why wouldn’t Natives, like everyone else in the county, want districts based
around the infrastructure they use and the places where they live their lives?
I am a resident of the town of Bernalillo, and Native Americans have been a constant presence
in my life. They are so familiar to me that when I travel outside New Mexico I feel the absence
of their cultures. They send their children to our schools. They shop in our towns; we work at
their businesses.

Relationships of all kinds run across reservation boundaries in our very diverse and dynamic
Sandoval County. When someone from outside our county comes in and draws a line across
these very real human connections, I question whether they actually know anything about the
county they’ve been tasked with carving up. For all the concern about listening to Native voices
Mr. Adair never actually bothered to talk to anyone from a Pueblo or Chapter House. Perhaps if
he had, he would have heard about these connections and relationships.

Perhaps this could have been an opportunity for Sandoval County to actually listen to its Native
communities, but I suspect he never actually cared in the first place.

The Sandoval County Commission is expected to vote on the redistricting boundaries in its Dec. 9

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