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Why is Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District preliminary map more red?

League of Women Voters holds forum explaining process to draw new political boundaries
A preliminary map of Colorado’s congressional districts includes a new 8th Congressional District. This is the first draft presented by nonpartisan staff members to Colorado’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission on June 23.

The newly redrawn 3rd Congressional District is likely to lean 5% to 10% more Republican based on preliminary maps released by the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission.

One question attendees of a Zoom redistricting forum had was how that was possible because one of the criterion to form districts is to try to make them more competitive. The forum was held Thursday night by several chapters of the League of Women Voters.

Smith Schell

Lori Smith Schell, an unaffiliated member of the Independent Redistricting Commission from Durango, said numerous criteria are used to draw districts, and competitiveness is one of the lower-ranking criteria required by law for use in drawing new political boundaries.

More high-ranking criteria include:

  • Creating districts of about equal population.
  • Keeping whole communities of interest like watersheds, neighborhoods, geographic regions, cities and counties, and racial and language minority groups together.
  • Abiding by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which does require using competitiveness but also requires keeping districts compact, keeping them contiguous and protecting minority groups from being split up.

The preliminary congressional district maps reflect Colorado’s partisan political divisions based on geography, Smith Schell said.

The less populated Western Slope and Eastern Plains favor Republicans, and the more populated Front Range favors Democrats, a fact reflected in the preliminary maps.

Beth Malmskog, an assistant professor of mathematics and computer science at Colorado College, said the end result of having a number of criteria is that map drawers must set priorities for the differing requirements set in law to draw new political boundaries every 10 years based on the U.S. Census.

La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee said La Plata County looks like it will have limited modifications based on preliminary population data, which should make her job of drawing precinct boundaries easier.

Lee said many ask her why precincts are still needed given mail-in ballots.

They are important to draw district boundaries for city councils, county commissions, school districts and other entities – even things like soil conservation districts.

Precincts in Colorado are required to contain about 1,500 people with an option to go up to 2,000 people if a county commission accepts that request from that county’s clerk and recorder.

Louis Pino, a GIS analyst with the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission, noted anyone can go the commission’s website and draw their own congressional district and state legislative district maps.

To draw a map a member of the public will have to register on the Independent Redistricting Commission’s website.

Once a member of the public draws a map, it can be submitted to the commission for consideration. Also, people can make their maps public for comment and share them with other groups.


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