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Parties Miles Apart on Redistricting
The fight over redrawing Colorado’s Congressional districts started in earnest Friday. Both parties unveiled their proposals for redistricting -- and they couldn’t be further apart.
[map images provided by the parties, current district map from NationalAtlas.gov]
Learn more about the redistricting process and find both parties' proposed maps (maps should be posted by Friday night)
The law requires that every Congressional district in the state have exactly the same number of people based on the 2010 census. But precisely how you divide up all those people depends on what criteria you care about. And when the legislature’s bipartisan redistricting committee met to show each other their maps, it was clear they care about very different things.
For Republicans like Senator Greg Brophy, it comes down to minimizing changes to the current map.
BROPHY: "If we were to adopt a map a lot like Map C, on one day people on Colorado would go to bed that night being in a Congressional district and the next morning to the greatest extent possible, most of the would wake back up in the same Congressional district."
The Republicans tweak boundary lines one way or another, but their proposal generally looks a lot like the state’s current Congressional districts. Not so with the Democratic maps. Senator Rollie Heath, co-chairs the redistricting committee.
HEATH: "We tried very hard not to draw unrealistic safe seats for either party while at the same time recognizing communities of interest. One important characteristic of communities of interest we recognized is city integrity."
The Democrats maps stretches the 3rd Congressional district, currently held by Republican Scott Tipton, across the southern half of the state. The 2nd District, which Democrat Jared Polis represents would cover the northwestern quarter, including Grand Junction. And the4thh CD, held by Republican Cory Gardner, would be restricted to the northeastern corner of the state, adding in more Front Range cities.
Those are some big changes, but Democratic Senator Gail Schwartz says they aren’t out of line when you look at how much Congressional maps have moved over the years.
SCHWARTZ: "I think that does give a great historical perspective that the concept of just small changes, well that’s not something that has necessarily been embraced historically."
This hearing was only supposed to be a chance for the two parties to introduce their proposals, but at the end of the presentations, Republican representative Don Coram couldn’t restrain himself. Coram represents a district on the Western slope.
CORAM: "I’m looking at a map that more than likely would have seven congressmen living within a mile of DIA. The Western Slope, the San Luis Valley, the Eastern Plains, the chances of us electing a representative under any of your plans would be very minimal."
A mile from DIA is an exageration, but all of the districts would include some Front Range cities. That was just the first shot fired against the Democrats redistricting plan. Moments after the hearing ended, House Speaker Frank McNulty held an impromptu press conference to slam the proposal. He accused Democrats trying to swing the balance of power in their favor.
MCNULTY: "I am extremely offended that the Senate Democrats would use this public process as a smokescreen to draw districts for two of their members. It is an absolute shame."
Senator Heath says he greatly resents those accusations. According to Democrats’ calculations, three of their proposed districts are almost equally split between party affiliations, and when voting patterns are figured in, Heath says five of the state's seven districts would be in play.
HEATH: "We have drawn as close as we possibly could to creating competitive maps."
Republicans and Democrats will have their first public debates over the redistricting maps at a hearing Tuesday night. While the legislature’s bipartisan committee was set up to achieve compromise, Friday’s anger suggests the lines drawn on their proposed maps, could be hard to cross.