Colorado’s Political Lineup
The constitutional deadline for legislative districts is 90 days after the first meeting of the Reapportionment Commission for a preliminary plan, and an additional 90 days for a final plan. Given that the commission must convene by May 15, 2001, the current deadline for a preliminary plan is December 7, 2001, and the final plan is due on January 9, 2002. The state Supreme Court must approve the plan before March 15, 2002. There is no deadline for congressional districts.
Who’s in Charge of Redistricting?
The legislature draws the congressional districts, while the Reapportionment Commission is responsible for legislative districts. There are no legislative committees exclusively responsible for congressional redistricting. Proposed bills on the subject are assigned to committee after they are proposed. The governor has veto power over the congressional plan only.
The Reapportionment Commission has been in existence since 1974. It is an 11-member, part-legislator, part-civilian body. The majority and minority leaders of both houses each appoint one person, the governor appoints three and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court appoints four. No more than six members can be from one political party. The governor has no veto power over legislative district plans.
The statewide House preliminary planis now available online; follow the "State Maps" link. Reapportionment Commission meetings are open to the public. Also, the Commission takes the preliminary plan to public town meetings across the state for comment. Recent advances in technology have prompted the Commission to set up a redistricting section on the legislature's homepage. The Denver Post recently published an article with detailed maps of current districts and the two proposed maps.
With an even split in the congressional delegation and divided control over redistricting, congressional district lines were changed little in 1991-2. This cycle, control is divided and Republicans now have an edge, meaning redstricting could turn particularly nasty. With the state gaining a new seat, each party will want to craft it for their party.
The Colorado State Supreme Court approved the state legislative plan drawn by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission in 1992, as it was constitutionally required to do under Article V of the state constitution. The final plan was upheld despite objections based on section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by a group named Blacks for Fair Reapportionment (seeking changes in northeast Denver) and a group of Latino voters (seeking changes in San Luis Valley in house district 60). The two groups claimed that the plan diluted minority voting strength in these areas. The state Supreme Court upheld the plan against both challenges based on the plan's adherence to state constitutional principles. Specifically, the court noted the desire to keep San Luis Valley intact as a community of interest.
The Latino plaintiffs also challenged house district 60 in U.S. district court. The trial court rejected their claims, but the 10th circuit reversed the district court's holding and sent the case back to the district court to create a new house district 60. The new district was formed by splitting four counties to create a new, majority-Latino district. The plan was approved in March 1998.
There was a measure on the November 2000 ballot that would move the deadlines up for the state legislative plan to provide more time for candidates to prepare for the 2002 primaries that passed 60-40.
Jeremiah B. Barry
Senior Staff Attorney
Office of Legislative Legal Services
State Capitol Building, Room 091
Denver, Colorado 80203
(303) 866-4157 Fax