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With growth comes change

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Census reporting means redistricting for local, state, national elected offices

With the Census numbers being reported, who you vote for could change with the next election.

A large population increase as reported on the 2020 Census means political boundaries can, and most likely will, change said District 42 Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs.

“My district, Senate District 42, I grew by 10,470 people — which is the highest in the state,” said Kernan, who currently has parts of her district in Lea, Eddy, and one precinct in Chaves Counties. “Senate District 42 grew by roughly 20 percent. … When you establish a district, you can be plus or minus five percent of the number of population you will represent. We don’t know what that number is now, but it probably won’t be much different than the 50,000 people we’ve represented in the past. But we don’t know because the state in general has grown by about two percent.”

Overall, 10 counties in New Mexico increased in population, while 22 decreased according to the Census.

Most likely, the result of the population growth in District 42, along with the growth in District 41 represented by Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, means parts of those districts will be moved into other districts, and those two districts will most likely shrink in size — giving people more local representation.

“They will shift the lines of the districts, and they do it by precinct,” Kernan said. “Most of the growth for my district, 42, occurred in Lea County.”

But Gallegos said it is possible with the population increase not only will the two senate districts shrink in geographic area, but that a “new” district could be created in Eddy County. That “new” district would likely mean a district from an area of the state which saw a decrease in population would be absorbed by neighboring districts, and then added to the southeast. Thus there will still be only 42 senate districts in the state.

“One of the thoughts is they may redraft to be able to give Carlsbad a senator. If you take some from Gay (Dist. 42), some from me (Dist. 41), and some from Senator (Ron) Griggs (Dist.

34) from Alamogordo — because he comes all the way down into Carlsbad — there may be the possibility for one more legislator from this side of the state,” Gallegos said. “Somewhere up north, someone will have to give up a seat.”

Because there are only 42 senators across the state, when lines are redrawn according to population, Gallegos said some of the counties — particularly in the northeast and northwest that saw a decrease in population — may have to consolidate one or two seats. The southern half of the state saw the largest increase in population, so the creation of of “new” district would likely happen in the southeast or southwest, he said.

“One of the cool things to see is that between Eddy and Lea Counties we had as much growth as Bernalillo,” Gallegos said. “What will hurt them (in any area of the state that must combine districts), some of those guys will have to look at running against each other. But if we can get one more person down here in the southeast — one more to fight the fight with us — that’s good.”

Kernan agreed the growth could mean adding another district to the southeast and consolidating others in the state.

“This region should be very well represented with the growth that’s occurred in this area,” she said and also pointed out southeast New Mexico grew more than the most populous county in the state. “This is where the growth has been and that’s really significant. … If you put Eddy and Lea (Counties) together, we grew more population-wise than Bernalillo County.

“Probably your going to see a contraction (in Senate districts 41 and 42) so it will move closer to our homebase, which would allow Eddy County to (have a senator who lives in the county) — they don’t have a senator, they want a senator. … The potential is there for this area to be well represented.”

She also noted the increase in population means more money could flow to the southeast from the federal government, even though those funds must go through Santa Fe to arrive here.

“Federal funds are determined by your population, and we’re going to benefit in that area as well,” said Kernan.

A special session of the New Mexico Legislature will be called in November or December to adopt redistricting maps. Both the state Senate districts and House districts, along with state-wide offices, like U.S. Congressional District 2 (CD2) that covers most of the state south of I-40 will be redrawn.

Most elected officials expressed concern over the possible re-drawing of CD2, because in November House Speaker Brian Egolf threatened the use of of his office to keep Republicans from keeping the seat won by Yvette Herrell over Xochitl Torres-Small.

“So this is the last election for New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional district with a map that looks like it looks now,” Egolf said in November. “So next time it’ll be a different district and we’ll have to see what that means for Republican chances to hold it.”

Egolf later backed away from his comments, claiming he was merely stating a fact while answering a reporter’s question.

“Speaker Egolf made the comment he is going to gerrymander Yvette Herrell out (of office),” Gallegos said referring to Egolf’s statement. “I would almost bet that he works at putting a huge portion — it might look like a finger going down I-25 into Albuquerque to get enough Democrat support to make it a Democrat seat in the future. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s the type of thing I would ask the public to keep watching, because it’s unfair. Down here we already have a balanced area, with Las Cruces (leaning more Democratic) and us in the southeast (leaning more Republican).”

Kernan said attempting to redraw districts so they are gerrymandered to make sure districts in the oilfield also have areas going into the northern part of the state would encounter resistance.

“I think that would be in opposition to what the goal of redistricting is,” Kernan said. She noted the purpose of redrawing districts with each Census is to keep communities intact where possible, so districts best represent the people living in them.

“It should go up and down by Census, not by political aspirations,” Gallegos added.

Having been through redistricting before, Ker-nan said it is a difficult process when looking at state-wide maps.

Anyone in the state can submit what their idea of the re-drawing of statewide maps should look like.

The Citizens Redistricting Committee is currently seeking input from voters on the re-drawing of statewide maps, where any state voter can re-draw maps the way they think it should be done and submit it to the committee. On Sept. 16 the CRC will meet and decide which of those maps will be published for more public input.

“I have to emphasize that maps drawn by the public must be complete statewide maps,” said CRC Chairperson Justice Ed Chávez. “It is easy to draw a map of one district, but we need to know how a change in a district impacts the rest of the districts.”

For local elected officials and boards, Lea County Clerk Keith Manes said many of those redistricting lines are drawn by the municipalities and boards themselves to better represent the areas they serve. The county clerk is responsible only for redrawing county precincts, then presenting those possible maps to the county commissioners for approval.

“Each district is responsible for their own,” Manes said. “Each entity will look at their own, and the county will look at its own. … They adopt their own resolution of what their boundaries are going to be for each district.”

Any municipality or district must have the redrawing of districts done by Jan. 1 Manes said. Those districts must be within 5% of each other and must be continuous, he added.

“Hobbs will have to have theirs done before Jan. 1, and so will the county, because we’re all up for election next year,” Manes said. Any entities that do not have an election next year can wait past Jan. 1 to redraw districts he said.

Gallegos said the Census means districts will be redrawn, but elections put the people in place who will do the redrawing.

“Elections have consequences,” he said. “And, we are living the consequences of the last political cycle.”

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