Long-delayed Census data released, setting up Colorado redistricting sprint

Detailed data show that Colorado grew more diverse in the 2010s as population surged by nearly 15%

By: - August 13, 2021 5:00 am
paper questionnaire

(U.S. Census Bureau)

Colorado’s population grew more racially diverse and rose nearly 15% between 2010 and 2020 to an estimated 5,773,714 residents, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday.

The latest population and demographic data released by the agency are the most detailed results to date from the 2020 Census, following a series delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The results pave the way for redistricting authorities across the country, including Colorado’s new independent redistricting commissions, to complete the once-a-decade process of drawing new congressional and state legislative maps as key deadlines loom.

“We are excited to reach this milestone of delivering the first detailed statistics from the 2020 Census,” acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said in a statement. “We appreciate the public’s patience as Census Bureau staff worked diligently to process these data and ensure it meets our quality standards.”

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The race and ethnicity data released by the Census on Thursday show that Colorado, like the U.S. population at large, has grown less white and more racially diverse over the last decade. Experts, however, say that picture is complicated by long-running inconsistencies in the way that the Census Bureau asks respondents for their racial and ethnic information, and by changing attitudes about racial identity among Americans themselves.

The share of Coloradans reporting that they are of Hispanic or Latino origin rose slightly from 20.7% in 2010 to 21.9% last year, according to the new data. Like previous surveys, the 2020 census asked respondents about Hispanic or Latino origin separately from a question about race — a practice known as the “two-question” format, which has been criticized as not fully representative of how Latinos in the U.S. conceive of their racial identity. An Obama-era proposal to combine the two questions on the 2020 Census was dropped by the Trump administration.

Detailed Census data released on Aug. 12, 2021, show rates of population change in Colorado counties. (U.S. Census Bureau)

The 2020 Census results show the percentage of Coloradans identifying as white alone dropping sharply since 2010 from 81.3% to 70.7% — a decline that may be partially explained by more people in Colorado and across the country identifying as multiracial. Mirroring national trends, the share of Coloradans identifying as two or more races surged from 3.4% to 12.3% over the last decade, the results show. The percentage of Coloradans identifying as white alone or in combination with one or more other races as of last year was 82.4%, down slightly from 84.3% in 2010.

Criticism from prominent Black and Latino Coloradans

The release of the long-awaited census data sets up a busy schedule for staff and commission members on Colorado’s two independent redistricting panels over the next two months, following months of uncertainty over the effect that census delays would have on the process. The independent commissions are the first to oversee the redistricting process following voters’ approval of two anti-gerrymandering measures, Amendments Y and Z, in 2018.

Last month, the state Supreme Court issued an order setting an Oct. 8 deadline for outside parties to submit briefs on the congressional maps, and an Oct. 22 deadline for state legislative maps — a move that has been interpreted by the commissions as allowing them to push their deadlines back from the Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 submission deadlines, respectively, required by the text of Amendments Y and Z.

The revised schedule adopted earlier this month by Colorado’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission:

  • Sept. 5: Commission staff release the first congressional map using final census data.
  • Sept. 6: Staff presents the first staff plan to the commission.
  • Sept. 7–11: The commission holds additional hearings on the staff plan in each existing Colorado congressional district.
  • Sept. 16: If necessary, staff presents a second plan.
  • Sept. 24: If necessary, staff presents a third plan.
  • Sept. 28: Deadline for the commission to approve a final plan for submission the Colorado Supreme Court. If the commission cannot approve a final plan by a two-thirds vote, the unamended third staff plan will be submitted.
  • Oct. 1: Deadline to file a final plan with the Colorado Supreme Court.

Last month, the commissions began holding public hearings around the state on preliminary congressional and legislative maps drawn by nonpartisan staff and based on less detailed population data from the Census Bureau and other sources.

The preliminary state legislative maps, in particular, have drawn criticism from prominent Black and Latino Coloradans, who say that the proposed maps dilute the electoral power of people of color and make it less likely that the General Assembly will have racially diverse representation.

Earlier this week, the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization proposed state Senate and House of Representatives district maps of its own, which they say better represent the diversity within the Latino community.

“The Latino community in Colorado is not uniform, and the preliminary maps treated us that way,” Mike Cortes, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Some Latino families have centuries-old roots in areas like the San Luis Valley, and they have different concerns than recent immigrants that live in metro Denver or Weld County.”

Advocates and community leaders expressed hope that the detailed data released by the Census Thursday would help the commissions improve upon the preliminary maps and better represent Colorado’s communities of color.

“As a Chicana legislator, I know that we do our best work when we listen to diverse voices and perspectives. Our diversity is our strength, and it always has been,” said state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Democrat from Denver, in a statement. “These Census numbers are an important reminder that Latinos must be better and more fairly represented everywhere, from classrooms to corporate boardrooms, and from newsrooms to the halls of power where decisions that impact our communities are being made.”

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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