Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Advocates and Democrat lawmakers gathered in front of the Sandoval County building in Rio Rancho on Tuesday to announce their lawsuit against the proposed redistricting of the county by the Republican-led Sandoval County Commission. The Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Democratic Party of New Mexico, the Pueblo of San Felipe and the Mayor of Bernalillo, among others.

The lawsuit accuses the commissioners, who include GOP gubernatorial candidate Jay Block, of approving a proposed redistricting map that fails to adapt to shifting demographics in the county and instead splits communities. Communities such as Bernalillo, which leans heavily Democrat, will be split under the approved proposal. The plaintiffs demand redistricting based on equity and borders that would fall along with natural barriers, such as major roads, which would preserve communities in the same district.

Kenneth Stalter of Stalter Law LLC, who filed the lawsuit, hopes that the County Commission will reconsider. “The lawsuit alleges and we expect to prove that this redistricting is not based on neutral, constitutional principles of fairness, but was based on a [movement] to prop up Republicans, to prop up non-Hispanic voters, even though the demographics of Sandoval County [are going in the] opposite direction with a growing Democratic registration, and yet they adopted a map that does not reflect [the values of] this community,” Stalter stated at the press conference.

“One of the concerns that we have about this map is that it’s just people with similar interests. One community was split apart, fractured across three different commission districts,” Stalter added.

“Honestly, it comes down to a real simple, basic issue. And that’s one of respect and fairness to communities and to individuals. Unfortunately, it’s taken us to a lawsuit to get to that point. I am disappointed and frustrated that our commission chose not to listen to communities, chose not to reach out to us for input, and the result is disrespectful redistricting of our county,” Mayor Jack Torres of Bernalillo said.

The Democratic Party of Sandoval County took issue with the lack of communication from the Commission. Instead of communicating with constituents, they say the Commission approved districts that neglect changing demographics and sought to preserve a once predominately conservative county.

“One of our main issues with this redistricting is that the commission neglected to include interested stakeholders in the process. This process started last July, and they made their plan known in November and December of 2021. And in all those months, no one was contacted. And it was just another way for the Republican-led County Commission to disenfranchise voters in a county [that has more] registered Democrats than Republicans,” said Democratic Party of Sandoval County Chair Alexandria Piland.

In Sandoval County, 53 percent of the people voted Democrat in the 2020 presidential election, 44.6 percent voted for the Republican Party and the remaining 2.4 percent voted Independent.