The Colorado Redistricting Process. Slicing and dicing Delta County.
By Delta County GOP Chairman Dave Bradford
In my last Blog, I made a reference to the Colorado Redistricting Process that is going on right now. At this moment in time, this is the most pressing local political issue for Delta County voters. I have very important information to share. Please read my blog and then take action.
This process will determine the boundaries of our Congressional and State Legislative Districts for the next ten years. How these boundaries are drawn can strongly affect what candidates are elected to our Congress and State Legislature and how we are represented over the next ten years. This issue is VERY HOT right now. The Colorado State Republican Chairwoman, Kristie Burton-Brown, held a Zoom meeting on redistricting in Colorado on July 5th that I participated in and Representative Matt Soper gave a presentation on the subject at our July 6th meeting. It is an issue that all of us need to be aware of and participate in.
Redistricting is based on Article 1, Section 2, and Paragraph 3 of our U.S. Constitution, which provided the process for apportioning the representatives to the House of Representatives in our Congress. This direction stated that an enumeration be done every ten years and representatives shall be apportioned to the states based on that enumeration – the U.S. Census. The Census is completed every ten years so it is time to revisit our Congressional and Legislative Districts. The process for delineating the districts has varied over time and, with varying degrees of controversy. In 2018 the Colorado Legislature proposed a ballot initiative called Amendments Y (For Congressional) and Z (For Legislative). If passed these amendments would amend the Colorado State Constitution. The initiative was placed on the November 2018 ballot and the voters of Colorado passed the proposed amendments overwhelmingly - 71% to 29%.
Instead of being completed by the State Legislature, redistricting will be done by a two commissions. The two commissions are composed of 12 members who were selected by a group of retired judges through a fairly complex process. The final result is two commissions, one for Congressional Districts and one for Legislative Districts, that are composed of Four Democrats, Four Republicans and Four Unaffiliated members. These commissioners then draw up the proposed districts and submit them to the public for comments. The criteria used by the commissioners are:
1) An equal population requirement for each district (Mandated by the Constitution.
2) Voting Rights Act of 1965, which mandates rules on race.
3) District must be contiguous.
4) District must be compact.
5) District must maintain communities of interest.
6) District must maintain political boundaries, such as counties, cities, etc.
Gerrymandering and protecting incumbents is explicitly not allowed.
Congressional District 3
The preliminary maps were recently released and the results are definitely a mixed bag. Delta County is located within Congressional District 3 or CD3. Lauren Boebert is the current incumbent. The proposed changes to CD3 involve adding Eagle, Summit, Grand, Park, Teller and Fremont counties, as well as some of western Boulder County. The San Luis Valley and Pueblo County would be dropped and added to the 4th District, which includes northeast and southeast Colorado and is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Windsor. Overall, this appears to be a good configuration and seems to meet most of the criteria for creating the districts. I believe we should support this configuration.
However, the districts for the State House of Representatives and State Senate are not supportable. The districts have been renumbered as well as redrawn.
State House and Senate
Currently, Delta County is located within State Senate District 5 (Kerry Donovan). State House Districts 54 (Matt Soper) for western Delta County and State House District 61 (Julie McCluskie) for eastern Delta County. This split in the House District has not served Delta County very well. It has minimized the voices of Delta County residents and placed half of the county in a district with little or no shared interests. The new proposed districts again split Delta County. For the Senate the proposed district is Senate District 6 and puts the western half of the county in with mostly Mesa County and puts the eastern half of the county in with Senate District 7, which includes Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel, Dolores, San Juan, Montezuma and La Plata Counties. Splitting Delta County for the Senate District does not maintain our county (our primary political subdivision) nor our community of interest (which is predominately agriculture and mining). This configuration will not serve the people of Delta County.
The House District configuration is also bad. However this configuration splits the county on and north-south basis. Cedaredge and Paonia are in proposed HD 55, which includes most of Mesa County, except for the city of Grand Junction, and a small part of Garfield County. The rest of Delta County is located in HD 53, which also includes Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel, Dolores, San Juan, Hinsdale and most of Montezuma Counties. Again, splitting Delta County between two House Districts does not maintain our county (our primary political subdivision) nor our community of interest (which is predominately agriculture and mining). This configuration will not serve the people of Delta County.
The Redistricting Process is in the Public Comment period. This will last until August 30, 2021. The Commissions will be holding 32 public hearings from July 9 to August 30, 2021. The closest hearings to Delta County will be in:
1) Montrose on July 30th at the Ute Indian Museum starting at 11:00 am.
2) Grand Junction on July 30th at Colorado Mesa University Meyer Ballroom at 7:00 pm.
Call to Action Delta County Republicans
The Redistricting Commission has a website that allows you to sign up for these meetings and to make comment to the Commission. The draft maps for redistricting are available on the website. https://redistricting.colorado.gov
We call to action our fellow Republicans to go online to the Redistricting website to register to speak at these hearings if you wish to testify. Signups will open one week before each hearing.
Please consider at least making a comment to the Redistricting Commissions. If we can get CD3 locked into the current configuration, and Delta County kept in one district and included with Mesa County for both the Senate and House seats, we will be better represented in the State Legislature for the next ten years. The last 10 years have been terrible for Delta County as Kerry Donovan and Julie McCluskie (and Millie Hamner before her) have done nothing positive for Delta County residents and helped pass numerous harmful pieces of legislation. The website, https://redistricting.colorado.gov, has a portal for making comments. It also has more information about the process. Please let the Commissions know we need to be kept whole and with Mesa County.
I have not mentioned how the redistricting will affect current incumbents, as the Commission says they do not and will not consider these factors. However, we do need to know these factors. The current configuration will put Representative Matt Soper and Representative Mark Gatlin in the same district and pit them against one another in the 2022 election. If one of them decides to run for the Senate it will pit one of them against incumbent Don Coram. Essentially eliminating one of these Republicans from the Legislature. The redistricting also takes Representative Perry Will out of the current HD 57 and puts him in the proposed HD 55 (Mesa County and a small bit of Garfield County, around Newcastle. This is another poor delineation as it takes this small part of Garfield County and puts in in with Mesa County. This is another change that needs to be made to the Commission – Keep Garfield County whole. Representative Will has represented Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties since 2019.
One of the interesting and unfortunate side notes is how the Urban/Rural Divide is increasing in our representation. In the Congress, there are 8 House Districts. Two of them, CD3 and CD4, account for approximately 80 percent of the land area in Colorado. It is similar in the State Legislature. Eight (22%) of the 35 Senate Districts represent over 80% of the land area in Colorado and in the House 12 (1.5%) of the 65 House seats represent over 80% of the land area in Colorado. Rural populations are losing their say in the State Legislature. In 1960 representation was much more balanced. The Eastern Plains and Western Slope had 15 Senators representing them, in 2021 there are 6. In the House there were 27 Representatives for the Eastern Plains and Western Slope; in 2021 there are 10. I don’t believe this issue can be solved in the current Redistricting effort but it is a factor that should support the argument for keeping the rural counties whole.
Stand up! Speak up! Show up!
This process is moving along quickly now, so please contact the Redistricting Commissions to make a comment or sign-up to testify at one of the hearings. As soon as possible. Also encourage others to do the same. There are going to be others making comments to change the Districts in the Favor of Democrats. There are already Democrats complaining how the current process favors Republicans. Because if the process had stayed the same – the Legislature would have drawn up the boundaries and the current Legislature is strongly controlled by the Democrats. So we are fortunate that Amendments Y and Z passed in 2018. But, please do not be complacent. Help ensure we will have good representation in the Congress and State Legislature. Please make a comment on the redistricting.colorado.gov website!
Stand up! Speak up! Show up! Thank you for your participation on this important issue.