Colorado redistricting panel approves new congressional map

Colorado’s newest congressional district, covering the north Denver suburbs, would be its most competitive under a map approved by the state’s independent redistricting commission late Tuesday.

Commissioners came to an agreement just before midnight after seven rounds of voting and six hours of debate during which commissioners argued over splitting up certain communities and about how competitive the map should be.

All that’s needed to make the eight districts official is the approval of the Colorado Supreme Court, expected in November. (The court can also send input, and possible changes, back to the commission.)

As it stands, the map gives comfortable advantages to each of Colorado’s seven incumbent members of Congress — Democrats Joe Neguse, Jason Crow, Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter and Republicans Ken Buck, Lauren Boebert and Doug Lamborn.

Recent election results suggest the new 8th Congressional District will be a close race in 2022 — though Democrats may have a slight advantage. Colorado was awarded the new district due to its population growth since 2010. It’s projected to have the highest concentration of Latino voters of any U.S. House district in the state. Its boundaries span from south of Greeley to north of Denver, encompassing the Weld County city as well as Thornton, Brighton, the Adams County portion of Westminster, Commerce City, Longmont and Mead.

The map was drawn using Census data that shows Colorado is growing, increasingly urban and diversifying. That data arrived months later than originally expected, forcing a rushed mapmaking process that commission staff director Jessika Shipley said “made us all a little anxious.”

The commission planned for about five months of deliberation and completed the work in closer to two months.

“We’ve been building a bicycle while riding it,” said Commissioner Paula Espinoza, a Democrat.

The commission is made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and four unaffiliated voters — a setup that Colorado voters asked for when they approved a pair of 2018 ballot measures meant to remove partisan advantage in redistricting. In order to adopt a map, state law required votes from at least eight of the 12 commission’s members, with at least two from the unaffiliated members.

The group finally reached that threshold in the seventh round of voting Tuesday. Two other maps — including one that would have split the Western Slope, created a huge district across southern Colorado and left the state with three competitive districts — also received strong consideration.

Commissioner Bill Leone, a Republican, said of the approved map: “I think this is a better map than would have been drawn by a partisan legislature, by far … I do think it was a productive debate that resulted in balance.”

Unaffilated Commissioner Moussa Diawara said the commission was careful not to “protect any incumbent candidate or parties and it was not drawn to dilute the electoral influence or voting rights” of any groups.”

The new lines for state House and Senate districts will come from a different independent commission, which is expected to approve its maps by Oct. 11.

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