First staff map for 2021 redistricting

This map prepared by staff from the Colorado Independent Redistricting Staff was released to the public on Sept. 3, 2021. This is the first of three staff-prepared maps that will be drawn up before the commission needs to submit final maps to the state Supreme Court by the end of September.

At a mostly-virtual hearing for public feedback on Thursday, Sept. 9, members on the committee to create new legislative maps heard mixed feedback from Coloradans from the western area of the state.

Some testified to share overwhelming support for the newest edition of the map, while others shared serious concerns about splitting the Western Slope into two districts.

Approximately 99 people signed up to testify at the meeting that lasted nearly four hours.

Notable changes from the preliminary map released in June include splitting the northern and southern parts of the Western Slope into two districts. The northwest corner of the state is drawn into the 2nd Congressional District, which extends into Boulder and Broomfield County.

Also, Pueblo and the San Luis Valley have been drawn back into the 3rd District, where the boundaries are currently drawn.

Some members of the public, including a few Montrose residents, objected to splitting the Western Slope into two districts.

Kay Heinschel of Montrose objected to the newly drawn districts. He argued that agriculture, water and public land are pressing issues on the Western Slope that the urban areas on the Front Range do not understand.

William Hanes, who retired to Mesa County after working in Denver, said that splitting the Western Slope is “ridiculous.” He said that making the 3rd Congressional District more competitive is not nearly as important as keeping the district homogenous.

“Making a district more competitive is not nearly as important as keeping the district’s region homogeneous regarding community, values and lifestyle,” Hanes said.

On the other hand, Rose Evans said that two districts could give “double the representation” to the Western Slope.

Ouray County resident Al Lowande said that competitiveness is more important than unifying communities of interest.

Lowande said that non-competitive districts are a “big threat to democracy” and he supported combining urban and rural areas into the same district that correspond with the same representative.

“That representative isn’t deserving of election if they can’t deal with the problems of two different areas equally well,” Lowande said.

Some commenters urged commissioners to adopt from an alternate map proposed by Club 20, a nonpartisan organization of private and public sector interests along the Western Slope.

Grand Junction resident Melinda Guthrie said that Western Slope areas share concerns about public land, watershed, agriculture and energy production.

“We need a single voice in Washington to advocate on the federal level for the federal policies that address the needs of those communities,” Guthrie said.

Independent commissions to oversee the redistricting process were created by Amendments Y and Z, which Colorado voters passed in 2018. One commission focuses on maps for congressional representation in Washington, D.C., while the other draws two maps for state house and senate districts.

The final map requires the approval of eight out of the 12 commissioners and will be delivered to the Colorado Supreme Court for final approval by the end of September.

Commissioners need to ensure that all of the districts have near-equal populations, as well as balance geographical contiguity, compactness and preserving communities of interest.

Anna Lynn Winfrey is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

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