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A Rough Draft Of Colorado's New Congressional District Map Is Out. Here's What You Need To Know

An image comparing Colorado's current map to the one proposed by commission staff on Wednesday.
Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission

A rough draft of Colorado’s new congressional district map was revealed during the Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission’s meeting on Wednesday.

This map is far from final. It’s a starting point for the commission to hit the road and receive feedback from residents in 32 public comment meetings held across the state starting July 9. Also, this preliminary map was made with estimated data rather than the full 2020 Census count data,the release of which has been greatly delayed until August.

The final version will be chosen by commissioners after they work with staff to create updated maps based on the 2020 Census count data release and feedback received during the public comment tour.

At least eight members of the 12-person commission, including at least two independent commissioners, need to vote for the final map. If enough commissioners cannot agree on a map before the deadline to submit it to the state Supreme Court in September, commission staff will have to submit their own map.

The maps aren’t based purely on numbers. The commissions and their staff are constitutionally required to create districts that avoid splitting counties or cities. Districts must also be as politically competitive as possible, racially fair, geographically contiguous and compact. And they have to keep in line with state and federal voting rights laws.

“These are constitutional criteria, that's sort of how staff weighs them,” said commission public information officer Julia Jackson. “But in redistricting, there's a lot of values to weigh and the commissioners are charged with making the decisions when those values conflict.”

Competitive districts aren’t really statistically possible in Colorado, commission staff attorney Jerimiah Barry said during Wednesday's meeting.

“Competitiveness is at the bottom of the priority list and we are required to meet all of the other constitutional requirements first before we try creating competitive districts,” Barry said. “And given the population distribution in Colorado, it is very difficult to draw more competitive districts.”

Staff used the 2018 state Attorney General race as a benchmark for how different areas tend to vote. Most of the proposed districts had one of the two main parties in the lead by around or significantly more than 10%. The proposed District 7 is the exception, with a 3% Republican lead. Barry added that the staff hopes to find a “better” measure of competitiveness before they create the final maps.

 A close up of the proposed district 8
Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission
The proposed District 8 map contains parts of Broomfield, Weld, Adams and Jefferson Counties.

The biggest change this map proposes is the new eighth district; located on the southwest corner of Weld County, stretching over Broomfield County, part of Adams County and into the northeast corner of Jefferson County. This district is politically expected to vote Democratic.

The decision to draw the district this way “was probably a combination of recognizing the growing population of those areas and an effort to include a significant Hispanic population in that district,” Barry said.

The proposed District 8 is only about 30% Hispanic or Latino, which is approximately the same size share of that population in proposed Districts 1 and 4.

“I think we tried to get that minority percentage up above 30%,” Barry said. “We were probably not able to make it as large as we might be able to if we had more time.”

Boulder county is split along between proposed district two (green) and three (orange).
Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission
Boulder County is split along between proposed District 2 (green) and District 3 (orange).

Several counties were split to ensure that the population size of each proposed district would be even. The estimated population size of each potential district is either 721,715 or 721,713.

Boulder County would be mostly represented by District 2, alongside all of Larimer and Gilpin counties. However, due to population size, a jagged portion of west Boulder County was placed in the mostly mountain, rural District 3.

The commission staff expect push-back and questions about the decisions made on this preliminary map. Barry specifically expected concerns about Greeley being in the mostly rural, 4th congressional district.

As KUNC’s rural and small communities reporter, I help further the newsroom’s efforts to ensure that all of Northern Colorado’s communities are heard.
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