New redistricting maps favor Colorado Democrats statehouse edge

The latest proposed maps for newly drawn state legislative districts give Democrats an edge similar to the one they hold now.

But the maps, released Monday, aren’t necessarily final. The independent commission tasked with reviewing them has until Oct. 11 to submit new district lines to the Colorado Supreme Court, and the commission can ask nonpartisan staff to submit more proposed maps before then.

“I think it’s very likely that we would get to at least a second, if not a third version,” said Jessika Shipley, the legislative redistricting commission’s staff director.

Democrats, who currently hold a 20-15 majority in the state Senate, would keep an edge in 22 state Senate districts under the latest proposal, based on how voters tilted during Colorado’s 2020 U.S. Senate contest. Notably, four districts under the new proposal would be competitive enough to be considered essentially toss-ups.

Democrats would maintain their 41-24 advantage in the state House, with at least 11 likely competitive districts.

Monday’s maps follow the first preliminary set from June, which lawmakers in rural and urban areas alike criticized for breaking up communities, including the San Luis and Roaring Fork valleys or Denver-area neighborhoods with substantial non-white populations.

Multiple lawmakers said Monday afternoon that they were still reviewing the maps to see if those concerns had been addressed, something Shipley said staff did its best to do.

“Obviously there’s a trade off,” she added. “You can keep some (communities) together and that means others are split up.”

For instance, under this new map, Garfield and Mesa counties would each be broken into two Senate districts at Interstate 70 and Larimer County would be broken into three different Senate districts, one of which would cover Fort Collins.

The public is invited to give feedback on these maps during three virtual sessions (6-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and 6-9 p.m. Saturday). Anyone who wants to speak is asked to sign up in advance.

Shipley said the commission won’t OK any maps at least until that commentary comes in.

Fair competition is the point of this once-a-decade redistricting process. Colorado voters asked for that by approving two ballot measures in 2018 that ensured panels comprising equal numbers of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated members would redraw congressional and legislative maps.

Monday’s maps will be submitted Tuesday to the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission, which can approve them with a two-thirds supermajority or request nonpartisan staff to draw a another proposal and release it Sept. 23. If necessary, staff would release yet another proposal Oct. 3.

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