Drawing conclusions from the drawn districts

Column by Greg Romberg
Posted 10/5/21

After a lot of conversation and debate, the independent congressional redistricting commission adopted a map detailing the districts for Colorado’s eight congressional districts that looks a lot …

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Drawing conclusions from the drawn districts

Posted

After a lot of conversation and debate, the independent congressional redistricting commission adopted a map detailing the districts for Colorado’s eight congressional districts that looks a lot like it probably would have if it had been developed under the previous process.

All seven of the current members of Congress (we’re getting an additional member based on Colorado’s population growth in the last 10 years) have been drawn into relatively safe districts that are similar to the districts they represent now. The new districts will not change the likelihood of any of them remaining in office.

The new district includes suburbs north of Denver and up to and including Greeley. On paper, it appears to be competitive, but it will lean Democratic as originally drawn and become more so over the decade it is in use as the area continues to grow.

While the new congressional redistricting commission introduced a dramatically different process, it did virtually nothing to change the criteria. Its membership of three Republicans, three Democrats and three unaffiliated voters applied criteria that districts must be compact, contiguous and made of communities of interest, and created a map that retains the current advantages for the four Democrats and three Republicans who comprise our current congressional delegation and a new district that leans Democratic.

While some people may think Democrats who control our state government would have developed significantly different maps than the independent commission, I don’t think so. And if by chance they did, a lawsuit that the criteria had not been met would likely have overturned improper new boundaries.

The most interesting impact of the map is that state Sen. Kerry Donovan, the Vail Democrat who is the most viable candidate to replace controversial freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert in the 3rd District, does not live in it. Members of Congress are not required to live within their districts and most of Donovan’s Senate district is in the 3rd, but the Boebert campaign (and Democrats running against Donovan in the primary) will certainly make an issue of where she lives. Donovan sent an email to supporters Monday saying if the current version of the map is approved, she will suspend fundraising efforts and reconsider whether to continue her campaign.

Boebert’s outrageous positions and behavior make her an attractive target, but the district’s Republican advantage and being a Trump-preferred candidate will benefit her in 2022.

Up next will be maps for the state legislature by a separate independent commission. The final maps must be approved by Oct. 11. Because the state must be separated into so many more districts (35 for the state Senate and 65 for the state House), the new maps will likely create more consternation and controversy with substantial impact on specific sitting legislators.

But it will also likely lead to maps that will result in districts in which Democrats maintain their significant majorities in both chambers.

While reasonable people can debate whether the new independent redistricting commissions improved the process for drawing district maps, the fact that the new criteria mirror prior criteria suggest that the new process for congressional districts resulted in final results that are very similar to what the previous process would have produced.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.

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