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Colorado Supreme Court approves new congressional map drawn by redistricting commission

The U.S. Capitol building.
The U.S. Capitol building.

This story was originally published in the Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday unanimously approved a new map of the state’s eight U.S. House districts drawn by the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission, despite arguments from Democratic and Latino advocacy groups that it dilutes the power of Latino voters.

“The plan surely will not please everyone,” Justice Monica Marquez wrote in the court’s decision, “but again, the question before us is not whether the commission adopted a perfect redistricting plan or even the ‘best’ of the proposed alternatives.”

Instead, the court found that the commission acted within its authority to balance state constitutional requirements and did not abuse its discretion.

The map, which will be used in the 2022 election, creates three safe seats for Democrats, three safe seats for Republicans and two seats, including one that’s home to Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, of Arvada, that could go either way. That’s based on an analysis of the results of eight statewide races between 2016 and 2020.

The 3rd District will include most of the Western Slope and southern Colorado, including Pueblo. U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Garfield County Republican who represents the district, will have a solid 9.3 percentage point advantage, per past election results.

The most competitive district under the new map will be the new 8th District based in the north Denver metro area and stretching into Greeley. The district will be 38.5% Hispanic, and Democrats will have a 1.3 percentage point advantage, based on the results of previous elections.

The map, which was approved 11-1 by the redistricting commission on Sept. 28, received a number of challenges from groups arguing it would dilute the power of Latino voters by grouping Latinos with white voters who vote in a bloc against Latino-preferred candidates. Specifically, opponents claimed the commission didn’t apply language in the state constitution prohibiting maps that dilute a minority group’s “electoral influence,” which they argue imposes further requirements than the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 to protect the voting rights of minority groups.

Colorado Independent Congressional Commission

The court, however, agreed with the commission that the state constitution simply restates requirements under existing federal law, and that the commission met those requirements.

The court also rejected claims that the commission should have created more competitive districts. Justices said that even if other maps considered by the commission had more competitive districts, the panel “was required to prioritize other criteria, including the preservation of communities of interest and political subdivisions, over competitiveness.”

With the court’s approval Monday, the congressional commission will now file the map with the Secretary of State, which has the task of reconfiguring precinct lines ahead of the 2022 election.

The map will be in place for the next decade.

The court’s approval also caps a congressional redistricting process overseen for the first time by the independent commission, created when Colorado voters passed Amendment Y in 2018. The panel contended with a more than four month delay in receiving the 2020 Census data required to draw the map.

“This year has marked a watershed for congressional redistricting in Colorado,” Marquez wrote in the court’s ruling. “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.”

Here’s a closer look at the new congressional districts:

  • The 1st District will continue to be Denver-centric and a safe Democratic district for Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette.
  • The 2nd District will cover the northwest Colorado counties of Routt, Jackson, Larimer, Grand, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Jackson and Summit, and also include most of Boulder and Eagle counties. It will also include parts of Weld County and more than 1,800 people from Jefferson County. It will be a safe Democratic district for incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat. 
  • The 3rd District will include most of the Western Slope and southern Colorado, including Pueblo. U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Garfield County Republican who represents the district, will have a solid 9.3 percentage point advantage, per past election results.
  • The 4th District will be comprised of Douglas County, including Castle Rock, as well as Loveland and other parts of Larimer County. The Eastern Plains, including Weld County and eastern Adams and Arapahoe counties, will also be in the district, which will remain a safe district for Republican Rep. Ken Buck, of Windsor.
  • The 5th District will be centered in Colorado Springs, and include military bases in El Paso County. It will remain a safe Republican seat for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.
  • The 6th District will remain anchored in Aurora and include much of Arapahoe County, as well as parts of Adams, Jefferson and Douglas counties. It will remain a safe Democratic district for U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, of Centennial.
  • The 7th District will be a reconfigured, competitive district including much of Jefferson County but also Lake, Park, Teller, Chaffee, Custer and Fremont counties in the central mountains. Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, of Arvada, currently represents the district. It will favor Democrats by 7 percentage points, and thus lean heavily in the party’s favor, but is still within the 8.5 percentage point margin The Colorado Sun considers competitive. 
  • The new 8th District will include the north Denver suburbs of Thornton, Commerce City, Brighton and Northglenn, as well as most of Westminster and all of Greeley. Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, of Thornton, and Democratic Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco have already announced bids for the seat, but the competitive nature of the district is sure to entice Republican challengers.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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