Proposed legislative, congressional redistricting could affect Latino representation
Several more issues tackled during Colorado Redistricting Commission’s open hearing in Carbondale
One concern over a preliminary reconfiguration of Colorado Congressional Districts is that it could diminish Latino representation in the Roaring Fork Valley, a Latino community advocate said during a Joint Independent Colorado Redistricting Commissions open hearing on Saturday in Carbondale.
“We believe that the proposed legislative and congressional maps failed to keep our community of interest in one single district for purposes of ensuring fair and effective representation,” said Alex Sanchez, founder and executive director of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and Voces Unidas Action Fund.
Sanchez said the preliminary Colorado House and Senate maps unfairly broke up many communities throughout Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties with anywhere from a 10% to 30% Latino population into four respective house districts and two respective senate districts.
Under the proposed house map, current House District 57 communities of Rifle and Silt will be absorbed into House District 55, and HD57 would pick up Routt County.
What is now Senate District 8, meanwhile, would drop Summit County and annex Larimer County and would be renumbered as Senate District 5
“At the Congressional level, the proposed CD3 map drastically reduced the Latino population percentage from 25% to 15% because the San Luis Valley and Pueblo communities were removed from CD3,” Sanchez said.
Saturday’s public hearing was one of many scheduled throughout the state this summer.
The redistricting commissions, made up of two 12-person independent citizen groups created after Amendments Y and Z were passed in 2018, have until the end of 2021 to submit final redistricting maps to the Colorado Supreme Court. If they don’t pull through in time, 2022’s primary election will be delayed, election officials have said
Redistricting itself is required under the U.S. Constitution. After every U.S. Census is conducted, new boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts must be drawn based on population growth or changes. Since Colorado has seen such significant growth, its current seven congressional districts will expand to eight.
Colorado’s 100 legislative districts, 35 state Senate and 65 state House districts, however, will not change in terms of the number of districts. Boundaries, however, will change.
In addition to concerns over potential Latino gerrymandering, the newly proposed districts prompted a myriad of opinions over whether the reconfigured districts serve the region’s best interests. Concerns ranged anywhere from water rights, ranching and agriculture, mountain resorts, among others.
Pitkin County Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said Pitkin County would be better aligned with similar resort mountain communities in relation to redistricting.
“I would request that the maps retain communities of interest,” she said. “Not just on Pitkin County, but with all the work that we do across the mountain communities who share very similar interests at the state legislature, including having to do with affordable housing, affordable health insurance and access to public health, natural resource programs such as carbon capture and solid waste disposal…”
Legislative redistricting commissioner Robin Schepper, a Steamboat Springs resident, agreed.
“We have heard very loudly from the ag and ranching community that they need a voice, but I’m going to be biased here of my own. I think the mountains also need a voice because they are sometimes not represented, especially on the congressional side,” she said.
Silt resident Michael Clark spoke in favor of keeping western Garfield communities in House District 57.
“It is a natural alignment of communities along the Colorado River,” he said. “Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle, Rulison, Parachute and De Beque. It is socially contiguous as we live here associated with friends and neighbors among these Colorado River communities.”
Clark said the area is also environmentally contiguous with HD 57 as it shares common concerns over issues like the quality and availability of water, infrastructure support with the Colorado River fire district, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Grand River Hospital.
Others, like Eagle County resident Caroline Bradford, simply spoke out against the current political vigor of CD3 as a whole.
“I think that it would be important for us to realize that politically competitive districts are important,” she said. “And the way the map is drawn right now, CD3 is not politically competitive anymore. I realize this is very hard to do, but I’d like to see it a little more balanced so that we have a chance at different types of political representation in the future.”
Moving forward, the redistricting commissions still have at least 15 more public hearings to conduct.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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