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Our View: Redistricting

Proposed 3rd Congressional District could benefit Western Slope

Colorado added about 745,000 people to its population in the decade ending in 2020, to 5.8 million, with 95% of that growth occurring in a handful of counties along Interstate 25 north and south of Denver.

Larimer (Loveland), Weld (Greeley), Adams (Brighton) and Douglas were the winners, if that is how you look at growth increases of between 25% and 33% in 10 years.

That area was the leader in population growth in recent past decades, analysts say, but not to that extent. It accounted for about 80% of the state’s growth, instead, in the past.

In Southwest Colorado, La Plata County moved up to about 56,600; Montezuma to about 26,000; San Juan County to just under 600; and Archuleta to about 13,250. No surprises.

On the other end of the spectrum, 16 of the state’s 64 counties, mostly on the Eastern Plains and in the San Luis Valley, lost population during the decade.

Colorado’s growth of 14.8% was the sixth highest in the country, which leads to the addition of a Congressional seat – the state’s 8th. Reshaping the districts to provide for eight may well change the far boundaries of the 3rd, which includes Southwest Colorado in its middle.

At the end of last week, the staff of Colorado’s Independent Congressional Commission released a proposed 3rd that includes an additional three counties east of Pueblo (Las Animas, Crowley and Otero), but shortened it by a half dozen counties in the northwest corner of the state. The northern line would be roughly I-70 instead of the Wyoming state line as it is now.

The challenge in creating districts predominately for the Western Slope, the Eastern Plains and across Southern Colorado, of course, is whether to make them even larger geographically and where to tap adjacent higher populated counties.

If this map holds for the 3rd, Southern Colorado would be better linked, and the 2nd, which would cover roughly I-70 to Wyoming, could be viewed as having the potential of giving the Western Slope a second vote for its issues.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, from Routt County, in her first term representing the 3rd, would be opposed by incumbent Rep. Joe Neguse, if both run again in November 2022.

Now comes a short series of remote hearings, with the final plan due at the state Supreme Court by Sept. 28. The court will pass judgment on the plan by Dec. 15.

From various news sources, there is general support for the proposed map and its approximate areas of commonality, with political observers saying that it would create three safe Republican districts, three safe Democratic districts and two that could go either way.

Incidentally, that fast growing area north of Denver along the east side of I-25 would be shaped to be served by the new 8th District.

Colorado voters deserve praise for their roughly 70% support, at election time 2018, of independent commissions to create the every-decade Congressional and Legislative reapportion maps.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll see what the census data, hearings and commissioners have created for the legislative districts, including the 58th and the 59th.