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More big changes in latest Colorado congressional map, which avoids pitting House members against each other

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This story was originally published in the Colorado Sun.

The latest draft of Colorado’s congressional map avoids putting the state’s current U.S. House members into the same district, while creating a sweeping district across most of the Western Slope and southern Colorado. The new 8th Congressional District in the north Denver metro region would be nearly 39% Hispanic.

The new map released Wednesday groups most of the Western Slope and southern Colorado into a single, L-shaped 3rd Congressional District. Northwest high-country counties including Routt, Jackson, Eagle, Summit and Grand are grouped with Larimer and Boulder into a proposed 2nd Congressional District. And the new districts would no longer pit Garfield County Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert against Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse of Lafayette.

And the proposed 7th District, now centered in the north and west metro area, would include much of Jefferson County but stretch to South Park in the central Rocky Mountains.

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The map is the second to be drawn by nonpartisan staff based on 2020 census data, and incorporates input from the public about previous drafts. Commissioners voted last week to base the latest map on one drawn by Commissioner Martha Coleman, a Democrat from Fort Collins who is a geographer.

The latest map would create three safe Democratic districts, three safe Republican districts and competitive 7th and 8th Congressional Districts, according to a report by nonpartisan legislative staff.

In three districts, the Hispanic population would make up more than a quarter of the total district. The proposed new 8th Congressional District would have a Hispanic population of nearly 39%, according to a staff report.

A look at the districts

The latest map is markedly different from two previous proposals. Here’s a look at how the districts shape up:

  • The 1st District centered in Denver remains safe for Democratic U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, with 57% Democratic advantage
  • The 2nd District still includes Boulder and Fort Collins, but stretches west to Routt County and includes Summit and most of Eagle County. It also includes Neguse’s home in Lafayette, and would give Democrats a nearly 34% advantage.
  • The 3rd District stretches from Moffat County in the northwest, south through Mesa and Pitkin counties to Cortez and La Plata counties, then east to Pueblo and Las Animas County. Unlike a map released earlier this month, Boebert’s Silt home remains in the 3rd District, and she’d have a nearly 10% GOP advantage.
  • The 4th District still includes much of the Eastern Plains, as well as Windsor and much of Douglas County. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Windsor would have a nearly 27% advantage.
  • The 5th District includes most of El Paso, except for some eastern areas that end up in the 4th District. It would remain safe for incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn with a 20% GOP advantage.
  • The 6th District includes most of Aurora and Arapahoe County, a safe seat for incumbent Rep. Jason Crow, of Centennial, with a 15% Democratic advantage
  • The 7th District now includes most of Jefferson County, but also small portions of Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas and El Paso counties as well as all of seven mountain counties. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, of Arvada, would find himself in a potentially competitive district with a 6% Democratic advantage.
  • The new 8th District includes much of Adams and Weld counties, including Greeley, Thornton, Commerce City and much of Westminster. Democratic state Rep. Yadira Carveo, of Thornton, recently announced plans to run in the district, which has a Democratic advantage of about 4%.

The political competitiveness of the districts is based on an average of election results from eight statewide races between 2016 and 2020. The percentages above represent the difference between the percent of votes cast for a Republican candidate and the percent of votes cast for a Democratic candidate.

There’s disagreement about what constitutes a “competitive district.” While the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission views an advantage of 8.5% or lower as a competitive district, the congressional commission hasn’t defined a range.

Currently, four of Colorado’s seven U.S. House members are Democrats. Members of Congress don’t need to live in the district they represent.

Coleman’s proposal 

The latest draft maps include a southern Colorado district that’s a significant departure from the current congressional districts, which divide the southern part of the state between the Western Slope and Eastern Plains. Commissioners have been drawn to the idea of a district centered on southern Colorado, but have been divided on how to make that work until Coleman made her proposal.

An earlier draft drawn by nonpartisan staff included a southern Colorado district that would divide the Western Slope along north-south lines and include the San Luis Valley and Pueblo. The panel received feedback from southern Colorado Democratic activists who liked the map, but also vocal complaints from residents of the Western Slope who didn’t agree with dividing the region. They also opposed a 2nd District that would have drawn northwest counties in with Boulder and Larimer counties.

Coleman’s map makes several changes based on feedback the panel heard about the previous map proposal, including:

  • Placing all of Larimer and Boulder counties, including Fort Collins, in a proposed 2nd Congressional district
  • Drawing Greeley into a proposed 8th Congressional District
  • Splits Broomfield between the 7th and 8th Districts 
  • Moving all of Loveland into the 4th Congressional District

Congressional commissioners voted 8-4 at a meeting last week to use Coleman’s map as a starting point for the map released Wednesday. Several commissioners were exasperated and frustrated at that meeting, with some wanting more discussion of a proposal by Democratic Commissioner Simon Tafoya, of Denver. His map would have created a southern district stretching border-to-border.

Commissioner Moussa Diawara, an unaffiliated voter from Colorado Springs, said he and other commissioners are interested in Tafoya’s map and didn’t want debate cut short because of the vote on Coleman’s proposal.

Others felt the commission had already spent too much time on their own proposals at the expense of the more than 130 submissions they’ve received from the public and advocacy groups.

“I can’t support a motion to direct the committee to spend more time than they’ve already spent. They still have 130 maps they’re trying to go though,” said Republican Commissioner Jason Kelly, of Alamosa.

The vote on Coleman’s map doesn’t mean the commission won’t consider other maps by outside parties, including previous draft proposals. On Friday, the panel’s map analytics committee is also planning to discuss a congressional map submitted by the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization.

What’s next 

The Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission will hold a meeting to discuss the latest map at 6 p.m. Thursday. Although the commission won’t be holding anymore public hearings, people may still submit public comments online.

A third congressional map drawn by staff may be released Sept. 23, if the commission doesn’t adopt a plan before then. The commission must adopt a map by Sept. 28 to submit to the Colorado Supreme Court by Oct. 1.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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