Coloradans could know as soon as Friday whether the state will gain another seat in Congress

The Census Bureau numbers will show how much the state’s population has ballooned in the last decade

Colorado's congressional districts, which were last drawn in 2011. (Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions, screenshot)

Coloradans will soon know whether the state will gain another congressional seat for the next election — a key question that will shape the state’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process.

Carly Hare, an unaffiliated voter and chair of the state’s newly formed independent congressional redistricting commission, announced during the group’s public meeting on Wednesday that the U.S. Census Bureau could release its reapportionment numbers as early as Friday. 

The data will show how much Colorado’s population has ballooned in the last decade and if the state qualifies for more representation in Congress. It’s a crucial question that needs to be answered before the independent commission can start drafting where the new congressional boundaries will be drawn for the state’s new political maps.

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Colorado gained a seventh congressional seat in 2001 and is likely to gain another one as the state’s population has grown nearly 15% since 2010, from approximately 5 million to 5.8 million, according to data from the Colorado State Demography Office.

Though Coloradans will know if the state will gain a seat, they still won’t know where the district will be located — that’s what the 12-person commission will be working to determine in the coming months. 

Final redistricting data expected in August

The new maps won’t be finalized until the Census Bureau releases more detailed population data in mid-August, according to Jessika Shipley, a staff member of Colorado’s nonpartisan Legislative Council, who is helping lead the redistricting efforts. 

Originally, the Census Bureau estimated that states wouldn’t be getting the necessary redistricting data until Sept. 30 — six months past the usual release date and weeks after the state Constitution says Colorado’s new maps are due to the state’s Supreme Court.

The population data will be broken down by race, ethnicity, voting age, housing occupancy status, and group quarters population, according to the Census Bureau’s website. Once the state has the necessary data, it will be a race to draft and update the existing maps and seek public input. Two independent bipartisan commissions are in charge of the process — one for legislative redistricting and the other for drawing new congressional districts. Each commission has 12 members with equal an number of Democrats, Republican and Unaffiliated voters.

The congressional commission is currently planning how to solicit public comment on their draft maps. State law requires the commissions to host at least 21 public meetings around the state. Due to COVID-19, those meetings could occur virtually. Members of the public are encouraged to submit public comments to the commission’s website and will soon be able to submit their own maps for consideration.

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