Colorado Reapportionment Commission adopts final state legislative district maps – Colorado Supreme Court to review

The Colorado Reapportionment Commission (charged with drawing our state legislative districts) yesterday (19 September 2011) approved the final set of state legislative district maps for Colorado, having completed two rounds of hearing public testimony (meetings in Denver from 31 May to 25 July, followed by meetings around the state throughout the month of August) and a final commission meeting on 12 September.

The competing plans for put forward for consideration and public review by the major parties (Democrats and Republicans) over the summer were significantly modified based on public testimony, but were ultimately all rendered irrelevant by the eleventh-hour introduction of an entirely new set of maps by the commission’s sole unaffiliated member (and chair) Mario Carrerathe maps that were, in the end, approved.

All of the Democrat commissioners joined Carrera in voting for the maps, along with Republican commissioners Gayle Berry, Robert Loevy and Rob Witwer voting yes on the Senate map (Republicans Mario Nicolais and Steve Tool voted no, for a 9-2 vote) and Barry & Loevy again joining Carrera and Democrats in voting yes on the House Map (Republican commissioners Nicolais, Tool and Witwer voted no, for a 8-3 vote).

Earlier today, the Colorado Reapportionment Commission staff issued a release announcing the new maps:

On September 19, 2011, the commission voted to adopt Final Plan Senate 003v1 [Senate map] and Final Plan House 003v1 [House map].   The commission instructed staff to renumber some of the districts.  The commission also authorized staff to make minor technical changes to the plans before the final plans are submitted to the Colorado Supreme Court.  Staff will send out another email once the final plans have been filed with the Colorado Supreme Court.  …

The page also contains a Google Earth map feature allowing the user to zoom in on a particular area of the approved final plans.  For this feature, the user must load the Google Earth application and then download the files of the approved final plans.

The minor technical changes (mostly re-numbering districts) will likely be completed in the next few days, and the maps will be submitted to the Colorado Supreme Court for review of how constitutional criteria have (or have not) been met no later than October 7th.  Legal challenges can (and probably will) be filed with the court once they are submitted for review.  If the Colorado Supreme Court rules that the maps meet Colorado’s constitutional requirements, barring any unresolved legal challenges), the maps will be filed as final with the office of Secretary of State on 14 December.

The following quick-reference summary of constitutional provisions controlling how Colorado’s legislative districts are drawn is provided with a view towards informing public comprehension of what are sure to be both contentious and complex discussions.

Colorado Constitutional Requirements:

  • Equal population (with no more than 5% deviation;  ideal district size – Senate: 143, 691, House: 77,372) (Colorado Constitution Article V, Section 46)
  • Counties cannot be split unless necessary to achieve equal population between districts

Except when necessary to meet the equal population requirements of section 46, no part of one county shall be added to all or part of another county in forming districts.  Article V, Section 47(2)

  • Municipalities may not be split unless necessary to achieve equal population between districts (Article V, Section 47(2))
  • Districts must be as compact and contiguous as possible, and consist of whole precincts

(1) Each district shall be as compact in area as possible and the aggregate linear distance of all district boundaries shall be as short as possible. Each district shall consist of contiguous whole general election precincts. Districts of the same house shall not overlap. (Article V, Section 47(1))

  • Finally, communities of interest – ethnic, economic, cultural, demographic, trade area and geographic – are to be preserved whenever possible

(3) Consistent with the provisions of this section and section 46 of this article, communities of interest, including ethnic, cultural, economic, trade area, geographic, and demographic factors, shall be preserved within a single district wherever possible. (Article V, Section 47(3))

Note that per a previous Colorado Supreme Court ruling (In re: Reapportionment of the Colorado General Assembly), these criteria are listed in order of priority – i.e. there’s a hierarchy of constitutional criteria which must be satisfied in order for district maps to pass constitutional review.

Additional references:

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