Coloradans have a chance to have their voices heard on proposals for redrawn congressional and legislative districts starting Friday in Lamar and continuing with a total of 32 meetings around the state through the end of August.
The gatherings are the public’s opportunity to address both the Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission and Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission, which will convene jointly at each meeting.
The Colorado Sun examined the initial congressional and legislative maps offered by nonpartisan legislative staff and comments submitted online by the public, most of which came before the preliminary maps were issued, from different corners of the state to get an idea of what concerns the commissioners might hear.
More attention — and public comments — have been directed toward remapping the congressional districts as Colorado is slated to get a new, eighth seat in the U.S. House. But the impact on state Senate and House seats could also be big, with control of the state legislature — currently dominated by Democrats — at stake.
The commission will hold hearings in the Denver metro area on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and in other parts of the state on Fridays and Saturdays.
Most of the members of each 12-member commission will attend the hearings in person, though some will attend virtually. Typically, meetings will be chaired by a commission member from the congressional district in which they are held.
The venue for some meetings, especially those scheduled for August, aren’t yet finalized. View the redistricting commissions’ official calendar for the most up-to-date information. The Sun will also update its public hearing timeline as new information becomes available.
Starting with the Eastern Plains
The commissions will begin their public hearings roadshow in communities in the eastern half of the state, starting with Lamar in the southeast on July 9 and traveling north to Burlington and then Sterling on July 10.
All three of those communities would be in the proposed 4th Congressional District, which would be Colorado’s largest in terms of geography.
The biggest change to the 4th District from its current form: The proposal calls for adding Pueblo County, the entire San Luis Valley and southeastern El Paso County. The district would stay anchored on the Eastern Plains, but no longer include the cities of Castle Rock and Parker.
The proposed state legislative maps also would change how eastern Colorado is divided.
While the current state Senate map draws District 1 in Colorado’s far northeastern corner to include counties as far south as Lincoln and Cheyenne, the new map proposes contracting the district. Eastern Plains counties including Kit Carson, Elbert, Lincoln and Cheyenne would be grouped in a new configuration with southeastern Kiowa, Crowley, Otero and Baca counties. Meanwhile, Las Animas, Huerfano counties and parts of Pueblo would be lumped in another state Senate district with the San Luis Valley.
The preliminary House map also splits eastern Colorado into districts in the north, central and south.
Public comments asked the commissioners to take the following into account when considering how to draw maps affecting the Eastern Plains:
- Grouping the Eastern Plains with other agricultural, rural counties, such as Weld and Pueblo
- Considering the importance of the renewable energy industry, such as wind farmers, in eastern Colorado
- Connections between Elbert and neighboring Douglas and Arapahoe counties, where many Elbert County residents go to access services
Half of the state’s eight congressional districts would encompass all or part of the Denver metro area under the proposal from nonpartisan staff. And a significant number of state House and Senate districts are also in the area.
Ten of the commissions’ public hearings will be held in Denver metro cities, all on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings between July 13 and Aug. 24.
More than 100 commenters from Lakewood chimed in, with most asking that Lakewood, which is in Jefferson County, be kept separate from Douglas County. The two are drawn together in the proposed 7th Congressional District.
Meanwhile, the proposed map places the new 8th Congressional District in the northeast Denver area, including north metro cities of Arvada, Westminster, Broomfield, Thornton, Brighton and Platteville. The map resembles one recommended by the Colorado Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, though it doesn’t stretch as far into Weld County as that group suggested.
Legislative districts are likely to be a focus of the hearings, too. Three proposed metro-area Senate districts and five House districts would place incumbents in the same district.
Public comments sent to the commissioners asked them to consider:
- Black, Hispanic and minority communities, whose populations have shifted from central Denver to Aurora, Commerce City and other suburban Denver areas
- The impact of affordable housing and the interests of renters
- Oddly-drawn district lines in the proposed legislative maps, including splitting the dorms of the University of Denver between two state House districts
The Interstate 25 corridor saw some of the state’s most explosive growth between 2010 and 2020, as subdivisions popped up on former agricultural land. That’s part of the reason the new 8th Congressional District was drawn in this area.
The first draft also would shrink the 2nd Congressional District, still including the college towns of Boulder and Fort Collins, but no longer reaching across the Continental Divide into Eagle County.
The 4th District would include the northern and eastern parts of Weld County under the proposal, before stretching out to the Eastern Plains and south.
Residents of western Boulder County are upset at potentially being moved into the 3rd Congressional District under the proposed map. The district has been a Republican stronghold and it’s currently represented by the U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert. Some 20 people submitted nearly identical comments to the commission objecting to the proposed change, which includes placing all of Summit and Eagle counties in the 3rd District.
Other comments received by the commissions thus far include:
- Concerns about Longmont’s grouping with Weld, Douglas and Eastern Plains counties in the current congressional map, rather than with Boulder
- Urging a congressional district be drawn along the I-25 corridor, including to keep Larimer and Weld counties together and separate from the Eastern Plains. Others, however, want to keep Larimer and Weldseparate from each other.
- How rapid population growth and development in Greeley that has given it more in common with metro Denver than Fort Morgan, Sterling and Yuma
- How a significant Hispanic population in Greeley could be grouped with those in Longmont, Brighton and Commerce City
Grand Junction-based Club 20 asked that counties west of the Continental Divide, including Summit, Grand and all of Eagle, be included in the 3rd Congressional District. The advocacy group also asked that Pueblo be excluded from the district.
They got their way — for the most part.
But not everyone is pleased. More than 80 people from Routt County submitted comments to the commissions, many expressing a desire that they be excluded from the 3rd District and placed in the same district as counties with tourism-based economies including Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Grand.
Other concerns expressed by Western Slope residents include:
- Consideration of the region’s expansive federal lands and natural resources, which requires representation before federal agencies
- Concern over removing Pueblo and San Luis Valley from the 3rd Congressional District and moving into the 4th District with the Eastern Plains
- Keeping mountain resort communities together to represent their distinct interests
Southern Colorado and the San Luis Valley
Three groups representing rural counties recommended taking the San Luis Valley and Pueblo out of the 3rd District. But those areas would be part of a massive 4th Congressional District that stretches from northern Weld County, along the Eastern Plains to the state’s southern border and across the San Luis Valley under the proposed congressional map.
Not everyone is happy about how massive the 4th District is, according to public comments reviewed by The Sun.
Several people expressed concerns about proposed legislative districts that split the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in southwest Colorado. Democratic former state Rep. Bri Buentello criticized the configuration of some of the southern state house districts. The proposed state House map draws House District 51 to encompass all of San Luis Valley, plus a thin strip of land that juts between House Districts 41 and 50 in Pueblo County.
Nonpartisan redistricting staff said that the odd configuration of House District 51 was proposed to comply with a 1991 court decision requiring that there be a majority-Hispanic district in the San Luis Valley. “There may be better and easier ways” to draw the district, said Jeremiah Barry, an attorney advising the commissions, but staff was short on time.
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The commissioners received feedback on redistricting in southern Colorado that included:
- Conflicting arguments that the San Luis Valley be kept both separate from and together with the Western Slope
- A request that San Luis Valley and Pueblo be kept together out of recognition of their strong Hispanic communities with a “unique culture distinct from that of the Western Slope, northern Front Range and much of the Eastern Plains”
- A request that communities along Colorado’s southern border, like Cortez, Pagosa Springs and Durango, be drawn together with Pueblo and the San Luis Valley because of shared culture, transportation and economic needs. “Life in rural areas in Southern Colorado, particularly the San Luis and Arkansas valleys, have less in common with rural areas in Mesa County or in [Northeast] Colorado than they have with those in more populated areas such as Pueblo County,” one commenter wrote.
Pikes Peak Region
The 5th Congressional District would be located entirely in El Paso County under the proposed map, in part because of population growth and because smaller counties to the west asked to be moved from the district.
Meanwhile, the legislative maps would reconfigure the entire region. The proposed House map would, among the changes, place the northeast corner of El Paso County in a district with Elbert and Lincoln counties. The proposed Senate districts would split the county into several districts, including one including downtown Colorado Springs and the eastern half of the city, another district on the west side of the city, and a district in the city’s northeast corner. Manitou Springs would become part of a district with Fort Carson, Fountain, Security-Widefield, Monument and Palmer Lake.
El Paso County has long been a Republican stronghold, but Democrats have gained ground in recent years, particularly in Colorado Springs. Many people told the commissions to keep the entire county within one congressional district to keep it politically competitive, while others called for Colorado Springs to be split off into another district.
Public commenters also brought up issues including:
- Concern about grouping Pueblo in the 4th Congressional District with northeast Colorado communities in the 4th Congressional District when “there are virtually no current economic, social, or political links” between those communities
- Concern about splitting Pueblo in legislative districts
- A request that military bases and the defense industries in El Paso County be kept together, including a suggestion that there be consideration of the large population of active-duty military personnel and military veterans in southern El Paso County and Pueblo County
- A request that Chaffee and El Paso counties be drawn into different congressional districts, citing concerns that El Paso “dominates” existing electoral dynamics and that outdoor recreation, tourism and other cultural interests give Chaffee County commonalities with mountain towns in the 3rd District
- A request to group Fremont, Custer, Chaffee, and Park counties together to keep them separate from El Paso County