DENVER – Minutes before their self-imposed deadline to agree on a new congressional redistricting map, Colorado’s independent redistricting commission voted to approve a new map in the state’s first effort at having a panel of citizens draw the districts.
The panel went through six rounds of voting Tuesday evening without coming to an agreement on a series of maps that were drawn over the past weeks and months by nonpartisan commission staff, the commissioners themselves, and other citizens.
The map that was eventually chosen in an 11-1 vote just before midnight differs slightly from the current congressional map, though it adds in Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District in the northern Denver suburbs, and was an amended version of the third staff plan released last week.
Commissioner Simon Tafoya, a Denver Democrat who pushed his own map through the evening, was the lone commissioner to vote against the map that will be submitted to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval by the end of the week, which staff called Coleman Amendment to Staff Plan 3.
The map needed to be approved by at least eight of the 12 commissioners, including two of the four unaffiliated members. As the voting and discussion went on through the night, things grew contentious over what the biggest priorities were for the new map – keeping communities of interest together or making the most competitive districts as possible in a state Joe Biden won last year by more than 13 percentage points.
The map approved by the commission on Tuesday night would create a likely 4-3-1 map for Democrats, with one district, the newly created 8th, being a tossup, according to an average of eight statewide elections since 2016 that commission staff have used to determine the competitiveness of each potential district.
The 1st, 2nd and 6th districts – currently represented by Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse, and Jason Crow, respectively – would be safe Democratic districts, while the 7th, represented by Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, would lean Democratic.
The 4th and 5th districts – represented by Republican Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn – would be safe Republican districts, while the 3rd, represented by Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, would also be a fairly safe Republican district.
The 8th Congressional District would essentially be a toss-up, as it has gone 1.3% toward Democrats over the averaged eight statewide elections.
If the Supreme Court approves the map, the 3rd would span most of the Western Slope and down into Las Animas County in southeastern Colorado. It would continue to include Pueblo.
The 2nd Congressional District would include Fort Collins and Boulder, most of the I-70 mountain ski corridor, as well as Routt, Jackson, Grand and most of Eagle County.
The 1st Congressional District would remain in Denver, and the 5th Congressional District would center around Colorado Springs.
The 7th Congressional District would take on some of the mountain counties currently included in the 5th, as well as most of Jefferson County. The 6th would remain centered around Aurora and most of Arapahoe County but includes parts of Adams, Douglas and Jefferson counties.
The 4th Congressional District includes most of the Eastern Plains, as well as Douglas County and Loveland and Wellington.
The new 8th Congressional District would extend from Commerce City up the eastern part of the I-25 corridor into Greeley and include Thornton, Brighton and Northglenn. It would also be 38% Hispanic.
The Coleman amended map that eventually was adopted got seven votes on the second ballot, and two modified proposals from Tafoya also received votes. As the voting and discussion continued, the “Schuster” plan, which created a southern district sought by some commissioners, also came into play.
At several points when the meeting got most testy, some commissioners suggested the commission had reached an impasse, but other urged the body to press on, noting how far they had gotten together in drawing proposals, attending dozens of public hearings, and narrowing down the final list of proposed maps.
After a sixth round of voting showed six people in favor of the Coleman amended map, five in favor of the Schuster map, and Tafoya in favor of his “workshop” map, Commissioner Bill Leone said he would vote for the Coleman map, and the commissioners agreed to do a roll call vote that ended with the 11-1 decision.
After the vote, the commissioners said they were pleased with the process despite the disagreements during Tuesday night’s voting and said they felt like they heard both learned more about the state and its people and done voters justice in their task to independently draw congressional maps rather than having the legislature draw them.
The commission was created after the 2018 passage of Amendment Y by Colorado voters, who also passed Amendment Z, which established the independent legislative redistricting commission that is doing similar work to the congressional commission, but at the state legislative level.
The commission has to submit the map to the Supreme Court by Friday, and people will be able to file objections with the court until seven days after it is submitted. The court will hold oral arguments on the map on Oct. 12 ahead of a Nov. 1 deadline to either sign off on the map or send it back to the commission for changes.