Briefline

With state Supreme Court approval, new Colorado congressional districts are set

By: - November 2, 2021 4:30 am

The Colorado Supreme Court on July 7, 2021. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado has new districts for members of Congress.

The once-a-decade process for redrawing congressional districts based on new census numbers concluded with a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court on Monday. The Supreme Court was the final destination for the proposed map of new districts, which was approved by the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission and was the subject of more than a dozen briefs for and against the map.

The arguments in favor of the map persuaded the justices.

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“The Plan surely will not please everyone,” Justice Monica Márquez wrote for the court, “but … the question before us is not whether the Commission adopted a perfect redistricting plan or even the ‘best’ of the proposed alternatives. The question is whether the Plan meets the requirements” of the Colorado Constitution. “We therefore approve the Plan.”

The court directed the Commission to file the map with the secretary of state by Dec. 15. It will then determine congressional district boundaries for the next 10 years.

Pictured is the final congressional district map approved on Sept. 28, 2021, by the Colorado Independent Congressional Commission. Click on the map for an interactive version. (Screenshot from Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions)

The map was a result of a new redistricting process. In 2018, Coloradans voted to implement two amendments — Y and Z — focused on reforming the way the state conducts legislative and congressional redistricting. The amendments created two independent commissions tasked with redrawing the state’s political maps in a way that focuses on fairness and minimizes the potential for gerrymandering. The commissions are made up of “twelve ordinary voters,” as the court described them, whereas congressional districts traditionally were created through a more partisan process in the General Assembly.

The Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission was in charge of both the Colorado House and Senate maps, deciding the boundaries for the state’s 100 legislative districts. The Supreme Court has yet to sign off on those maps.

Some of the congressional map opponents argued that it violated a constitutional provision that prohibits “diluting the impact of … (a) racial or language minority group’s electoral influence.” The justices found, however, that the commission complied with the provision.

For the first time, the state’s congressional district map is not the product of politics or litigation.

– Colorado Supreme Court Justice Monica Márquez

One notable opponent of the map, state Sen. Kerry Donovan, blasted the court’s ruling. Donovan was the leading Democrat running to unseat Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert in the 3rd Congressional District until the final proposed congressional map was configured so that Donovan lives outside the district, a development that led her to suspend fundraising.

“Unfortunately, the congressional maps that the Redistricting Commission submitted are a disservice to Coloradans and fail to follow the will of the voters,” Donovan said in a Monday statement in response to the Supreme Court ruling. “Make no mistake, these maps throw Coloradans’ voices — especially Latino and folks in rural Colorado — by the wayside, making districts less competitive, protecting incumbents, and splitting communities of interest.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling noted the historic nature of the 2021 redistricting process.

“This year has marked a watershed for congressional redistricting in Colorado,” Márquez wrote. “For the first time, the state’s congressional district map is not the product of politics or litigation; it is instead the product of public input, transparent deliberation, and compromise among twelve ordinary voters representing the diversity of our state.”

Because of population growth, the congressional map includes a new 8th District, located on the Front Range north of Denver up to and including Greeley. It’s the most competitive of the eight districts, with Democrats having just a slight advantage. In all, the map features three safe Democratic districts, three safe Republican districts and two districts that lean Democratic but are within reach for Republicans.

The court has until Nov. 15 to rule on the legislative maps.

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