Colorado Commission Rushes To Finish New Congressional Map

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s independent congressional redistricting commission has entered the final stretch in fashioning a map for the next decade that incorporates a new eighth district and tries to keep intact communities of interest, such as Hispanic and Latino voters and urban and rural economic interests.

That and avoiding splitting cities and counties into separate districts headlined commission discussions Wednesday. It also could keep the number of competitive districts at a minimum, thanks to the state’s political geography with its concentration of Front Range urban voters and more conservative rural areas to the east, west and south.

The new eighth district, per the latest nonpartisan staff map submitted Sept. 15, runs along the I-25 corridor north of Denver and veers northeast to Greeley. Based on past elections results, it could be the most competitive of Colorado’s districts. Staff plan this week to submit another map, which will be presented to the panel on Friday.

“We’ve gone about this the right way,” Commissioner Danny Moore said. “We shouldn’t dictate the number of competitive districts.”

Republicans currently hold three seats — in the rural 3rd and 4th congressional districts and in conservative El Paso County. Democrats hold four, one based in Denver and three centered in largely suburban districts.

Commissioners on Wednesday discussed a number of potential changes, including keeping more of suburban Douglas County in an urban district and ensuring the Roaring Fork Valley is intact. Commissioner Lori Smith Schell said a subcommittee had so far reviewed 116 of 162 maps submitted by the public and hoped to complete that work soon.

Commissioners have a Sept. 28 deadline to approve a map and must submit it to the state Supreme Court by Oct. 1.

Final approval by the 12-member commission requires at least eight “yes” votes, including two unaffiliated commissioners. If the commission fails to submit a final map next week, a staff map must be submitted, without amendments, for judicial review. The court must approve a congressional redistricting map by Dec. 15, 2021.

In 2018, voters approved a ballot measure to hand control of redistricting to a nonpartisan commission that does not include legislators. The vote removed the task from lawmakers, political parties and the governor to make the process less partisan.