The General Assembly's bipartisan redistricting committee has started the hard work of negotiating a new Congressional map for the state. Democratic and Republican members introduced very different proposals last week. And at a meeting last night they didn't find much common ground.
Some on the committee now say it was mistake to have each party draw up its owns maps without first agreeing on some common principles. Republicans stuck closely to the current district lines in their proposals. Democrats prioritized competitiveness. Neither of those criteria are specifically listed in the guidance given to lawmakers. Democratic Senator Morgan Carroll said her party's emphasis on political balance is only fair to voters.
CARROLL: "So while you may have people with competing ideas and views within the same district, it means that no elected official can afford to simply write off one segment of that district because the people can fire them."
But by making five of the seven districts politically competitive, Democrats have combined parts of the state which have been in separate districts for decades. And under their plan, every district would touch the Denver metro area. Because of that, Republican Representative Don Coram says he'd heard a lot of complaints from his rural constituents.
CORAM: "We don't want someone living on the I-25 corridor representing the San Luis Valley and western Colorado. I'm sorry, we're just a different breed of cat. We love ya, but we don't want you representing us in Washington."
Republicans spent much of last night's hearing defending the current Congressional district lines which form the basis for their proposals. It's a funny reversal of fortune. The current district map is based on a plan that Democrats submitted to the Denver court during the last redistricting process. Nine years ago Republicans decried those boundaries, now they're defending them. Senator Greg Brophy described the maps his party presented as just the opening gambit in negotiations.
BROPHY: "We tweaked, and we tweaked a little bit to my side, so we'd have some good givebacks."
Democrats found more than tweaks to complain about with GOP proposals. Representative Dan Pabon accused Republicans of packing the district that covers Denver with Democratic voters, weakening their voice in neighboring districts. And he attacked their decision to split the heavily Hispanic city of Aurora between three representatives.
PABON: "This is just a slap in the face to so many Hispanics who have worked hard to make sure they have the right to vote, and then simply have their voice diminished."
After several hours of debate, Republican Senator Mark Scheffel warned the committee that the public may be losing faith in their ability to negotiate a compromise.
SCHEFFL: "And alright, if we were to have a vote today, my guess is it would be 5-5 and we would get nowhere. But we're not done. We don't have a lot of time, but we have some time, so we need to get to work here."
The committee will continue its work again tonight. This time members are going back to the drawing board to see if both parties can come up with an acceptable map together.