Correction 5/2/22: In a previous version of this article, it was reported that the city of Santa Fe uses numbers from tribal voter rolls and other non-census population counts in their redistricting process. This has been updated to show that the city of Santa Fe does not use those counts and is something that is not specified for the Albuquerque sessions.
The city of Albuquerque is currently undergoing a redistricting process as is required by the city charter following every census, the latest of which happened in 2020. The redistricting committee has been meeting since early March to discuss potential new district lines and hear community input; their latest meeting took place on Wednesday, April 27.
Redistricting has a substantial effect on how the city government operates as it ensures that the populations of different districts are equally represented within the City Council. Some districts have grown unevenly in the 10 years since the city was last redistricted. The redistricting process can also be used to ensure that marginalized communities' voices are being adequately represented and heard.
“Resources, who represents you, how that individual will be elected to represent you, what happens, in your neighborhood: this process is about it,” Cathryn McGill, the chair of the committee, said.
There are currently five district maps in heavy consideration by the committee, each drawn up by independent analytics contractor Research and Polling Inc. based on census data.
At the meeting, Research and Polling Inc. presented another potential map that evenly distributed areas of higher social vulnerability across voting districts, as per the request of committee member Travis Kellerman, who is from current council District 7. Brittany Poss, director of data and analytics at Research and Polling Inc., said this was an unusual request.
“(His idea), I think, is that the districts are more fair if that social vulnerability is spread out evenly across districts. I think there's other people that would argue that it makes more sense to keep socially vulnerable areas together in the same district so that their voting power is sort of consolidated and increased,” Poss said.
The committee still wants to consider how social vulnerability is distributed in existing concept maps in the redistricting process, but not as a sole factor in redrawing the districting lines, as suggested by Kellerman. They also are asking “communities of interest,” or groups with common policy concerns who generally wish to remain in the same district, to present themselves to the committee for their knowledge, according to McGill.
The process for redistricting is determined by the city council in a resolution, according to Poss. Per the resolution, they have to look at data from a census and not a survey, and are not allowed to look at data regarding political party membership. Poss mentioned the limitations that this presents.
“We know that there are issues with the census data. We know that there are undercounts, especially among communities of color. The issue that we have is that the census data is sort of the best data that we have that fits the requirements for redistricting,” Poss said.
Some frustrations were voiced during public comment, including worries about how some of the current concept maps broke up current districts. Public commenter Mason Graham reminded committee members to continue to be careful about not spreading out voters of color across multiple districts, as that would dilute their voice, and to be conscientious of undercounts in areas like the International District.
Community members are allowed to join the meeting and present either hand-drawn or alterations on pre-existing concept maps. Scotti Romberg, a community member, presented a map that slightly altered concept map A, which was designed to minimize changes to current districts, to make districts more even population-wise.
McGill said the goal of this process for her is to continue to make redistricting easier to understand for everyone in the community. She’s also striving to make participating in the census as routine as taking out the garbage.
Committee members have until July 1 to present their recommendations to the City Council. After recommendations are given, councilors may further debate and alter the map before voting on their final choice for the city.
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite