Latest state legislative maps released as redistricting commission nears deadline
New boundaries for 65 state House, 35 Senate seats would be expected to preserve Democratic statehouse majorities
A view of the Colorado Capitol on Feb. 23, 2021. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)
One week ahead of a deadline to submit its plan for new statehouse districts to the Colorado Supreme Court for review, the state’s Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission on Tuesday received details of a third and final plan proposed by nonpartisan state staff.
The maps released ahead of the commission’s Tuesday night meeting draw new boundaries for 65 Colorado House of Representatives districts and 35 state Senate seats, as proposed by state staff based on previous feedback from the commission’s 12 appointed members. Any further changes to the two maps must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the panel, which consists of four registered Democrats, four Republicans and four unaffiliated voters.
The deadline for the commission to submit its maps to the Supreme Court is Oct. 15. If commissioners can’t approve a final plan with at least eight votes by then, the third staff plan will be submitted.
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Once given final approval by the Supreme Court — a step that could involve legal challenges from outside parties — the new maps will take effect beginning with the 2022 election and remain in place for 10 years.
The latest legislative map proposals come one week after the state’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission voted to approve its final plan for submission to the court. The two commissions are the first of their kind to oversee the once-a-decade redistricting process in Colorado following voter approval of anti-gerrymandering measures Amendments Y and Z in 2018.
Under the amendments, volunteer commissioners were selected through a multistep process that included review by a panel of retired judges and a random drawing, and they are tasked with working with state staff to draw maps that satisfy a range of criteria, including preserving “communities of interest” and “maximiz(ing) the number of politically competitive districts.”
Both commissions have faced criticism from Black and Latino advocacy groups, who have consistently faulted their proposed maps for “diluting” the electoral influence of communities of color. Democrats have also cried foul over the congressional commission’s approval of a map that could potentially result in an even 4-4 split in the state’s House of Representatives delegation, despite the state’s increasingly blue tilt.
The new state legislative maps proposed Tuesday, however, would likely preserve the solid statehouse majorities currently held by Colorado Democrats, who boast a 41-24 advantage in the House and a 20-15 margin in the Senate. Based on voting data compiled by state staff for several recent statewide elections, the third staff plan would favor Democrats in 42 of 65 new House Districts and 22 of 35 new Senate seats.
State staff will formally present their third plan at the commission’s Oct. 6 meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. The commission will hold at least six additional meetings to consider changes to the plan before a final vote expected on Oct. 12.
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