Contentious Colorado Reapportionment Commission meeting highlights partisan divide, post-deadline map submissions

Monday’s meeting of the Colorado Reapportionment Commission (charged with drawing our state legislative district boundaries) opened on a contentious note, with Commissioner Wellington Webb stating, “I don’t like the court’s ruling – I feel that it reduces the commission’s discretion” and failed to improve in tone until the meeting was summarily closed on a motion from Commissioner Dolores Atencio to end debate and bar any additional amendments or changes to the maps previously submitted (the motion passed 6-5, with (unaffiliated) Chairman Mario Carrera joining the 5 Democrat commissioners to overrule the 5 Republican commissioners who wanted to work out a potential compromise set of maps).

The meeting was also characterized by plenty of wrangling over process; the commission had earlier set a deadline of last Wednesday (23 November) for submission of new state legislative maps to the commission staff in order to ensure sufficient time for analysis (and posting on the commission’s website for public viewing).  However, the Democrat commissioners failed to submit and post their version of the maps until 10 PM Sunday evening (a mere 13 hours prior to the commission’s meeting on Monday).

Several commissioners took issue with the late submission of the map, decrying the failure to follow a public process and maintain the transparency established over a full summer schedule of public hearings (beginning with meetings in Denver from 31 May to 25 July, followed by meetings around the state throughout the month of August).

Commissioner Mario Nicolais was particularly incisive in his condemnation of the post-deadline submission of the maps, stating

I think the members who submitted those maps should just… absolutely be ashamed.
It bothers me most not because it’s cheating these commissioners, but because it’s cheating the people of Colorado… you’re cheating them of transparency, it’s unfair.

Commissioners also “cried foul” over the fact that the Democrat maps drew incumbent legislators into the same district.  Curiously, all of the incumbents drawn into the same district are Republicans, including House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument paired with Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan; and Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, in the same Colorado Springs district as Sen. Keith King. (Other “incumbent pairings” – all GOP – include Bradford/Scott, Sonnenberg/Becker and Nikkel/Delgrosso).

Commissioner Bob Loevy – who had previously argued for the preservation of “competitive” districts in Colorado Springs and had earlier carved out Democrat-leaning districts in that “most Republican of major Colorado cities” – was particularly critical of this aspect of the Democrat maps:

This plan appears to be calculated to antagonize the court… The plan seems to go out of its way to place incumbents in the same district – especially Republicans.

Although it appears likely that the late-submitted (post-deadline) map will be voted out of commission when it meets later today for a vote (beginning Tuesday 29 November at 11:00 AM in Hearing Room A of the Legislative Services Building, located at 200 E. 14th Avenue, Denver CO 80203 – the meeting will also be broadcast online, audio only) it remains to be seen if the issue of violating the ‘public’ process (24-hour notice for “adequate time for the Commission to consider”), disputes over interpretations of constitutional requirements for minimizing county and city splits, and lumping incumbent legislators into the same district will indeed “antagonize the court” into remanding the commission’s maps for an unprecedented second time.  [Ed. we consider it not unlikely, given the changing nature of the court]

UPDATE: WSYS posted video of the meeting (“Colorado Reapportionment Commission Shenanigans“)

The maps under consideration by the commission for a vote today (listed in order of submission) follows:

House Maps:

Senate Maps:

Additional references:

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