By Beverly Wallace
The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions have finalized the appointment of their members. Twelve candidates were chosen for the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission, and twelve candidates were chosen for the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission. Over 5,000 applications were received for these appointments and the members selected include four Democrats, four Republicans and four Unaffiliated voters for each commission. No more than two members were selected from the same district or county. Many counties have no members chosen and some counties may have just one. This is the case for Weld County. We have one member on the Congressional Commission, an Unaffiliated voter from Firestone, but we have two representatives from CD4, which includes our Unaffiliated voter from Firestone and a Democrat from Roxborough Park. On the Legislative side, the CD 4 representatives are an Unaffiliated voter from Longmont, and a Republican voter from Trinidad.
Because these commissioners are most likely not familiar with many of the counties and districts represented, public input is essential in informing these commissioners about the areas and ultimately the districts they will be re-drawing, There decisions will impact voting for at least the next 10 years.
Because of the pandemic and problems in gathering and completing Census 2020 data, the redistricting process is going to be, well, a hot mess. The Commissions depend on Census data to formulate maps and redistricting plans based mostly on Census 2020 population data. Because state statutes have set constitutional deadlines, the plans were intended to be complete before the end of the year, so that county clerks could re-draw precincts by the end of January and not impact 2022 primaries, set for March 1, 2022 and all other voting scheduled for 2022. The timeframe for public comment was set to be complete 20 days after the Commissions were formed. Completing the plans and maps originally was set for the first and middle of September; to make the final consideration of the Supreme Court by November first and 15th, respectively, and to be approved by December 29th. Constitutional statutes have these dates as permanent, except that the Commissions can change all of the dates except the November and December dates, which are constitutional and can be changed only by the Supreme Court.
The problem with the best-laid plans of mice and men is that they often go awry. Currently the Census 2020 data is not expected to be released until late September, making the completion of the Commissions redistricting plans unlikely if not impossible by the constitutional deadlines. So what is that going to mean for all of us? In Tuesday’s public Legislative meeting, I learned that the time for public comment and input was extended and comments could be welcomed from 60 and maybe even down to 10 days before the plans are created. Both commissions have extended the timelines. That is good news for all who wanted to have some input and were dismayed that the timeframe was so short. The next option is to take data from other sources, not Census data, to use in formulating the plans. This is very controversial, and in Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners were told, that basically, no matter what they choose to do, use the Census 2020 data and be late, or use other data and hope for the best to meet deadlines, that they probably will be sued.
The 2018 election gave us passage of Amendments Y and Z which set up the idea of independent commissions redistricting Colorado’s seven U.S. House districts. Previous to 2018, the Colorado General Assembly was responsible for Congressional redistricting. Congressional maps were handled by a committee made of members of both chambers who then introduced bills to be voted on like regular assembly bills, but also subject to veto. This created an environment ripe for gerrymandering, and packing and cracking of districts. With the passage of Y and Z, now a nonpartisan staff will design several plans influenced by public comments and input as well as from those of the commissioners.
Amendments Y and Z stress that districts must be drawn to be competitive, balanced, contiguous and compact, and the process transparent. Commissioners will vote on plans and any amendments. For the final approval, the plan chosen and voted on will require at least eight members of the commission voting in favor. The plan would then need approval by the Supreme Court and it would not be subject to legislative approval or veto.
So what do the commissions need of you? Your participation and input is vital for the understanding of the best interests of each district. You can send in public comments, testify at public hearings or even draw your own maps for submission. To keep up to date on what is happening when, you can sign up for the mailing list.
The information that is helpful and requested involves you describing your community of interest. After all, many of these commissioners and staffers may have never been to Weld County or anywhere in CD4. What does that mean? Well, commissioners and the nonpartisan staff want to know about what you think is important to be reflected in your preliminary map. What groups should be kept together? What are your ideas on how communities share things in common? For instance, you could use urban and rural communities, what best serves each? Maybe your school district could be used as an appropriate boundary. Maybe neighborhoods with ethnic, or religious ties, or areas with similar aged individuals, could all be categories of interest that you think should be kept together.
This CPR story has a precinct-by-precinct map with some fascinating information and comparisons:
So, here is the procedure (steps to submitting written public comment).
1. First, thank the commissioners and staff for their work and introduce yourself and
where you are from.
2. Describe your community of interest. (Use a lot of detail in describing the area and
individuals, or groups you want to include). You can also look at the Colorado Constitution definition…
“Any group in Colorado that shares one or more substantial interests that may be the subject of federal legislative action, is composed of a reasonably proximate population and thus should be considered for inclusion within a single district for purposes of ensuring its fair and effective representation. Such interest include but are not limited to matters reflecting shared public policy concerns of urban or rural, agricultural, industrial, or trade areas: and shared public policy concerns such as education, employment environment, public health, transportation, water needs and supplies and issues of demonstrable regional significance. Groups that may comprise a community of interest include racial, ethnic and language minority groups.”
3. Describe what you want to be included in the preliminary map. (You could say, “My hope is that you consider… and that you will include…”). Draw you area on a map for a good visual and… Try to make your comments non- political in nature.
4. Submit your written public comment to the website: Redistricting.Colorado.gov/public_comments/new
Or, by emailing your comments to Colorado.firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Invite others to submit public comment.
Redistricting is terribly important to the future of Weld County, CD4 and the rest of Colorado.
Please take an interest in this as the consequences of the decisions made will impact voting for the next 10 years. It is our real chance for equal representation that truly reflects the populace and the interests of metropolitan cities like Greeley and all of Weld County. For more information you can check out these websites, or if you have concerns you can also express them here:
CO State Director
The PDF below has a good summary from All On The Line.