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The Colorado House chambers on the first day of Colorado's special legislative session on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Democrats would likely maintain control of the Colorado House under a new map of the chamber’s 65 districts headed to the state Supreme Court for final review.

The Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission voted 11-1 Monday night to approve the map, with Commissioner Gary Horvath, a Democrat from Broomfield, casting the lone “no” vote. 

The Colorado Supreme Court now has until Nov. 15 to approve the map or send it back to the commission for revisions. Legal challenges are likely. 

Thirty districts would be considered safe for Democrats, with another six districts leaning in the party’s favor. Nineteen districts would be safe for Republicans, with one district leaning in the GOP’s favor. 

Nine districts would be considered competitive, according to a report by nonpartisan staff. 

There are 65 seats in the House, meaning a political party needs 33 to control the chamber. The map adopted by commissioners Monday night sets up Democrats to maintain their majority in the House, albeit a smaller advantage than they have now.

Democrats currently have a 20-15 majority in the Senate and a 41-24 majority in the House. 

Click here to view an interactive map and to view related reports on the map. The reports are not yet final.

The legislative commission has a policy defining political competitiveness based on an average of election results from eight statewide races between 2016 and 2020. The metric looks at the difference between the percentage of votes cast for a Republican candidate versus the percentage of votes cast for a Democratic candidate.

Nonpartisan staff consider a district competitive if neither party has an advantage of more than 8.5 percentage points. The Colorado Sun considers a district competitive, but leaning in favor of a political party if it has an advantage of at least 5 percentage points.

Nonpartisan staff could make some minor changes to the final House map before submitting it to the Colorado Supreme Court by Friday. 

The legislative redistricting commission Monday night was deadlocked until 11:30 p.m. on a new state Senate map. The commission will reconvene at 6 p.m. Tuesday, their deadline to approve a map, for a final vote.

At least 16 House incumbents would be in the same district as another

At least 16 incumbent representatives would be drawn into the same district as another incumbent under the House map approved Monday night. But representatives in four of the districts are term limited or have announced a bid for higher office.

Candidates for the state legislature must live in the district they seek to represent for a year before Election Day. Since state representatives serve two-year terms, affected incumbents — with the exception of those who are term limited or seeking higher office — would have to decide whether to move into another district or challenge one of their colleagues to keep their job. 

Of the affected districts without a term-limited incumbent or politician seeking higher office, two would be home to two Republican incumbents, one would be home to two Democratic incumbents and one would have a Democratic and a Republican incumbent.

  • Democratic Rep. Tracey Bernett, of Longmont, and Republican Rep. Dan Woog, of Erie, would both live in House District 12. Both are in their first term.
  • Republican Reps. Rod Bockenfeld, of Watkins, and Rod Pelton, of Cheyenne Wells, would both live in House District 30.
  • Democratic Reps. Yadira Caraveo, of Thornton, and Kyle Mullica, of Northglenn, would both live in House District 34. Caraveo, however, is running for Congress next year.
  • Republican Reps. Mark Baisley, of Roxborough Park, and Kim Ransom, of Douglas County, would both live in House District 39. Ransom, however, is term limited and can’t run for reelection in 2022.
  • Republican Reps. Stephanie Luck, of Penrose, and Ron Hanks, of Fremont County, would both live in House District 46. Hanks, however, is running for U.S. Senate next year.
  • Republican Reps. Tonya Van Beber, of Eaton, and Richard Holtorf, of Akron, would both live in District 65. Van Beber is in her first term.
  • Republican Reps. Terri Carver and Shane Sandridge, both of Colorado Springs, would both live in District 14, but Carver is term limited in 2022.
  • Democratic Reps. Lisa Cutter, of Littleton, and Kerry Tipper, of Lakewood, would both live in District 22.

Of the districts that would no longer have an incumbent because of redistricting, four would be solid Republican seats, two would be Democratic, one would lean Democratic and one would be competitive. Another six districts would be up for grabs in 2022 because of incumbents’ term limits. Three of those would be solidly Democratic, one would lean Democratic and two would be solidly Republican.

The House map approved by legislative redistricting commissioners is based on a plan submitted by Mario Carrera, an unaffiliated voter who served as chair of the 2011 Legislative Reapportionment Commission in Colorado. 

Commissioner Amber McReynolds, an unaffiliated voter and former top Denver elections official, brought the map before the panel. 

Former Reapportionment Commissioner Mario Carrera speaks on Tuesday, August 10, 2021, at La Alma-Lincoln Park in Denver. Leaders from the Latino community showed legislative maps drawn by CLLARO to be submitted to the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commissions. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun)

Carrera is not a registered redistricting lobbyist, but he has supported maps drawn by another group, the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization. He consulted with the organization in drawing the map that became the basis for the proposal approved Monday night. 

CLLARO has representatives who are registered to lobby the commission. 

In a letter accompanying his submission, Carrera argued his plan would best represent the state’s Latino residents, who now make up nearly 22% of the population. “Latinos in Colorado are not a monolith nor are they affiliated with any one party consistently across the state,” he wrote. 

A number of groups have filed legal challenges to the congressional map before the state Supreme Court, arguing the Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission hasn’t taken into account language in the state Constitution aimed at protecting minority voters that goes beyond federal law.

Carrera, in the letter that accompanied his map, echoed some of those concerns, warning commissioners that claims from other advocates that their maps focus on minority representation may not hold legal muster. 

“Simply claiming to have a certain percentage of Latinos or other minority groups in a district is only one metric in the analysis that the constitution requires,” Carrera said. 

What’s next 

Nonpartisan staff will take the next few days to prepare the maps, accompanying reports and a legal memo to submit to the Supreme Court by Oct. 15. 

Parties can file legal challenges or briefs on the final state House and Senate maps by Oct. 22, ahead of a 1 p.m. Oct. 25 oral arguments hearing. The court must issue an opinion by Nov. 15. 

Final legislative maps must be approved by the court by Dec. 29.

Sandra Fish has covered government and politics in Iowa, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado. She was a full-time journalism instructor at the University of Colorado for eight years, and her work as appeared on CPR, KUNC, The Washington Post, Roll...

Thy Vo previously was a politics reporter for The Colorado Sun.