County redistricting lines proposed

Ruidoso News (NM) - Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Author: Dianne Stallings
A public hearing will be scheduled on Nov. 15 for Lincoln County commissioners to consider commission redistricting lines based on 2010 population census data. However, adoption of a plan may be delayed until the end of the year. 

Commissioners and County Clerk Rhonda Burrows last week reviewed three plans put together by demographer Rod Adair, who also is a Republican state senator from Roswell, representing the majority of Lincoln County. His firm, New Mexico Demographics, was hired to guide the county's redistricting process. 

Because Adair didn't have some of the latest information on a precinct split and commissioners offered some of their own observations about potential changes, Burrows said she would meet with Adair to work on fine tuning the numbers before the hearing. If needed, a special meeting could be called to review the results to give commissioners confidence in whatever plan they select. 

Under the three plans reviewed last week, two had variations as great as minus 6.73 percent and minus 8.1 percent. The preference is to stay within 5 percent plus or minus in population differences. 

The third plan maintained that limit, but Commissioner Kathryn Minter said she wanted her home in Precinct 4 to stay in District 4, requiring switching two clusters of precincts. Adair had explained that commissioners' home precincts could end up in other districts, but that wouldn't affect their current terms. 

"For three commissioners, it is not an issue because they are not eligible for re-election," he said. "Those elected in 2010, their districts will remain, regardless of what is adopted here. By 2014, you need to be in a district up for election. You could live in the same district with two other commissioners for next three years. You are elected from the district that elected you in 2010." 

"So hypothetically, if I am from a district that is redrawn and choose to run again, I would have a new area. I would be representing new people," Doth said. 

Lincoln County is fortunate in that the prohibition against breaking up minority voting blocks is not an issue, he said. 

"This county does not have that and that is unusual in New Mexico," Adair said. "Your population at the end of the 2010 census is 20,497," up from 19,989 in 2000, and the bureau lists dozens of racial as classified as Anglo, non-Hispanic whites. In the older-than-18 age category, about 71 percent are non-Hispanic white and 25 are Hispanic, with less than 2 percent Native American and less than 1 percent Asian and other. 

"The county never had a district majority of any minority, let alone of voting age population," he said. "You have to be very careful and make sure you don't dilute certain categories of voters, but that is not a issue in Lincoln County." 

If the current precinct alignment is not changed for existing commission districts, the deviation would exceed 10 percent in three districts and 5 percent in four of the five districts, Adair said. However, he noted that some new precincts were created this year and were not available 10 years ago when the current district lines were drawn. 

District 1 is the largest in size, but smallest in current population, he said. District 4 falls in the center of the population area and District 2 covers the extreme southwest corner of Ruidoso. District 3 contains just three precincts and District 5 centers on Ruidoso Downs 

Burrows said because Precinct 11 was so large, on her recommendation, commissioners split it into two precincts, 11 and 18. The ideal is a district population of 4,999 people, she said. 

His plans show a logical way to divide the county while preserving rural interests in a small population area and to provide representation from Ruidoso Downs to Hondo and San Patricio, which has its own community of interests that are different from Ruidoso, he said. Ruidoso would have representation in three precincts, two in the heart of town and one along with Alto. 

Burrows said for commissioners not to worry about the numbering of the districts at this point. The number won't affect an election. Precincts must be kept intact within a district and she will work on some options with Adair.