Colorado’s independent redistricting commissions have been hard at work since the full 2020 census numbers became available in August. The congressional map is in the hands of Colorado’s Supreme Court for its approval, or not, and there are just a handful of days remaining before the court receives the legislative map.
There are two different independent commissions, each with four Republicans, four Democrats and four independents. The agreed-on maps, to be sent to the Supreme Court, have to be approved by eight members, including two from each party.
This is the two commissions’ first work, after their approval by Colorado voters in 2018. Colorado thus joined only a handful of other states with redistricting processes that are out of political hands. Admirable.
A few comments: The extensive 3rd Congressional District remains almost entirely identical to what was created 10 years ago, except that it extends somewhat farther east of Pueblo to pick up three small counties.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, whose Garfield County residence was outside an early version of the 3rd’s map, is now in. At that time, Boebert said she would run again for the 3rd, even though she didn’t live in it, something that is allowed (you do have to live in Colorado). That campaign dimension is now gone.
The new 3rd is something like 8 percentage points favorable to Republicans. Pueblo, for one thing, is no longer as blue as it once was.
Democrats have won the 3rd. Ben Campbell did so as a Democrat, as did John Salazar who farmed in the San Luis Valley. Both individuals generated unusually broad appeal, Campbell an Olympic athlete, veteran, skilled jeweler and horseman who pulled himself up from an almost nonexistent domestic environment, while Salazar was part of a highly respected hard-working, multigenerational family in the valley and had been in the U.S. Army.
Whether those significant qualities would mean much today, however, is doubtful. Ideologies, strongly advanced, are unfortunately what generates attention and support today.
Rep. Barbara McLachlan’s 59th District loses Gunnison County, which had little connection with the other counties in the district, and adds almost all of Montezuma County including Cortez. That makes the 59th look like it did 10 years ago. Whether a Republican can succeed McLachlan remains to be seen.
Marc Catlin’s 58th District thus loses heavily Republican Montezuma County, gaining Ouray, Hinsdale and Gunnison counties. It is far easier for McLachlan to travel her district than it is for Catlin, with a district with more elevation change.
The Supreme Court will have to approve the congressional map, or make changes, and until Tuesday we will not know whether the legislative map will stand before going to the court. But the process, even truncated because of the late delivery of the census numbers, has been a very good one: Fair commission composition, an apparently talented staff and numerous public meetings.
Colorado is known for its mountains, rivers and blue skies, and to that should be added good government. Proper districting is the beginning of good government.