Redistricting maps in — Bipartisanship out?

The Colorado Statesman

On Tuesday, the Joint Select Committee on Redistricting will begin negotiating congressional boundaries drawn on 11 different maps.

But neither side could wait to start getting their digs in on Friday, when the committee’s five Republicans and five Democrats exchanged their maps.

From the committee’s early meetings to town halls across the state, members have pledged to come up with just one map and one bill from the entire committee for the General Assembly to consider. That map and bill was originally due on April 14, and then because of delays in getting data and dealing with the budget, put that deadline off until Monday, April 23, just over a week away.

Given the comments on Friday, whether that April 23 deadline will be met and just how many maps and bills will be introduced is now very much in question.

The Republicans had five maps, all approximately similar in shape to what the state’s congressional districts look like, with subtle changes that Democrats claim are designed to shift the state’s representation to as many as five Republicans and as few as two Democrats.

Democrats offered six maps, all based on “city integrity,” or keeping city boundaries whole, that Republicans claimed would result in five Democrats and two Republican representatives.

Colorado’s current congressional representation is four Republicans (Congressional districts 3, 4, 5 and 6); and three Democrats (Congressional districts 1, 2 and 7).

In drawing the maps, the General Assembly must consider:
• Mathematical population equality between districts and that districts may not overlap,
• Compliance with the 1965 Voting Rights act.

The first two factors are federal requirements; the rest are statutory in no particular order:
• Preservation of political subdivisions such as counties, cities and towns;
• Preservation of “communities of interest,” including ethnic, cultural, economic, trade area, geographic and demographic factors;
• That districts be as compact as possible, and
• Minimal disruption of prior district lines.

The maps also must take into account the 1982 Carstens v. Lamm decision, which says maps must include a Western Slope district, an Eastern Plains district, and that Denver remain whole within its district.

Colorado’s population, as reflected by the 2010 census, jumped to more than 5.029 million people. That means each one of the seven Congressional districts will need to have approximately 718,456 people.

The shifts in population that will require changes in the maps:
Congressional District 1 (Denver), needs to gain 56,418
CD 2 (Boulder and counties west): needs to lose 15,348
CD 3 (Western Slope) needs to gain 12,271
CD 4 (Eastern Plains): needs to lose 6,584
CD 5 (El Paso County) needs to lose 7,445
CD 6 (South suburban Denver): needs to lose 79,345
CD 7 (parts of central Jefferson County and Northern Aurora): needs to gain 40,047

In late February and throughout March, the joint committee held town halls around the state to gather input from citizens and elected officials on what the maps should look like. Both Democrats and Republicans on Friday claimed their maps reflected much of that input.

But the maps presented by the two parties couldn’t look more different.

The Democratic maps all split the state along west to east lines and north to south lines, more or less along I-25 and I-70, according to committee Co-Chair Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder.

The Democrats’ maps are based on two principles, according to Heath: keeping cities whole within their districts and competitiveness. Heath told The Colorado Statesman that he viewed their maps as responding to the huge increase in population of 750,000, and “in order to get competitive districts we had to draw the maps that way.” Heath acknowledged that competitiveness is not a factor in the criteria, but pointed out that people across the state repeatedly said “let’s have competitive districts. The problem with Washington is that nobody has to run for re-election.”

Democrats pointed out that their maps would create one safe Republican seat (CD 5), one safe Democratic seat (CD 1) and five competitive districts. Democrats claimed they drew competitive maps while maintaining communities of interest, and unlike the Republican maps, the Democrats’ maps maintained the integrity of cities in virtually every instance, along with the integrity of rural counties.

Republicans expressed outrage over the Democrats’ maps, claiming they were drawn to advance the political ambitions of Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont and Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora. Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said in a statement Friday that he was disappointed that Shaffer used “the public redistricting process as a smokescreen to advance his own ambitions.”

Committee member Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, could not contain his anger over the way the Democrats drew their maps. Despite a pledge by committee members not to comment on the maps during the Friday meeting, Coram exploded. “I am very angry that you call it ‘city integrity’ but there isn’t any rural integrity,” he said. The maps drawn by Democrats could result in seven congressmen living within a mile of Denver International Airport, he said. The Western slope, Eastern plains, “any chances of us electing a representative from those areas under any of your plans would be minimal. I’m deeply disappointed.” In a statement issued later that day, Coram noted that the criteria for redrawing maps includes adhering to Carstens v. Lamb and disrupting current districts as little as possible.

Coram’s disappointment was shared by other rural lawmakers Friday. Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Grand Junction, called the Democrats’ plan to lump Grand Junction into a district with Boulder “absurd.” Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, told The Statesman that competitiveness was presented as a major criterion for the Democrats’ maps, but that’s “nowhere in the law. The law says communities of interest and as little disruption as possible. Those two concepts have been abridged by the Democrats’ maps… The concept of communities of interest is in conflict with competitiveness,” she said. “When you go for competitiveness, it makes it a political process.”

Eastern Plains Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said that handing water issues for the Eastern Plains over to “politically-powerful areas like Aurora would be a death blow to our agricultural communities…This is about water and it’s about our way of life.”

The Republican maps, while keeping the basic shapes of the current districts, are more subtle in their differences. For example, Longmont is moved into the 2nd Congressional District in three of the five maps and kept in the 4th Congressional District in the other two. While Republicans claimed the Democrats’ maps were drawn for Shaffer’s benefit, all six of their maps keep Longmont in the 4th, which was the stated preference for Longmont residents who attended the Loveland town hall in February. In several Republicans maps, Democratic-leaning Lake County is moved from the Republican-leaning 5th CD to the Democratic-leaning 2nd, also a stated preference from several town halls.

And Democrats had plenty to complain about with the Republican maps, including on outside interference into the process by the Speaker of the House.

In recent weeks, Democrats have complained about McNulty’s decision to allow a delayed bill on judicial instructions for redistricting sponsored by Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio. House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, said that the introduction of House Bill 11-1276 would undermine the work of the committee. And the Denver Post this week reported that three Republicans who were on “point” for Gov. Bill Owens in the 2001 redistricting process, including former Trailhead chief Alan Philp and attorney Richard Westfall, were consulting with McNulty on redistricting.

Rep. Daniel Pabon, D-Denver, claimed the Republicans’ maps would dilute minority influence by moving Hispanics out of CD 2 and 7 and into CD 1. In defense of the Democrats’ maps, Pabon noted the Southern District is currently represented by someone who lives in Southern Colorado, and that the Northern District contains the home of Republican Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma. “Could we be off by one or two counties? Sure. That’s what this process is about — negotiating to that point. The attempt is not to have only metro area lawmakers representing Colorado.” But Pabon also noted that 3 million of the state’s 5 million population is centered around the Denver metro area.

So will the committee come up with map? “We’ve engaged completely in a bipartisan effort to solve this issue,” Pabon said. “What we’re seeing now is the same thing that happened with the budget — Frank McNulty and Republicans are getting in and trying to mess up the process. If we keep that to a minimum, we can definitely do it and find common ground.”

But Pabon also said the Democrats are committed to seeing the process completed in this session, despite the fact that if redistricting went to the courts, the state would likely end up with maps that favor Democrats, as it did in the last redraw.

“We want the Legislature to fulfill its constitutional duty to draw the map,” Pabon said. “We’re not looking at the court as a solution, and it would be easier if we let the issue go to the courts, because the Democrats would win. But Democrats on the committee and as a whole are committed to making sure this process makes it through the Legislature.”

To see the maps, go to www.colorado.gov/Redistricting and click on “maps” at the bottom of the page. To see the current map, go to http://legislature.state.co.us/state/map.asp?map=0.

Marianne@coloradostatesman.com