Get Ready For CD-8, Colorado

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

New state population totals released Monday offer fresh signs of how southern and western states will gain political power after the 2020 census.

The figures from the Census Bureau measure changes to state populations for the year ended July 1. Because they come less than a year before the next decennial census, they are a close approximation for which states will gain and lose congressional seats and electoral votes based on the 2020 count that gets fully under way this spring.

Based on Monday’s figures, Texas is poised to gain two congressional seats, and Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon are expected to gain one. [Pols emphasis] Eight states are expected to lose one seat: California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

It’s been known for some time now that Colorado was likely to pick up an additional seat in Congress following the 2020 Census, and the new figures from the Census Bureau out today move the needle further from possible to probable. Ex-Denver Post reporter Nic Garcia previewed the coming 2022 free-for-all back in August:

Depending on how the lines are drawn, it could feature any number of high-profile Democrats from the Front Range. Given the churn that term limits create at the statehouse, lawmakers looking to move up usually have to wait until someone dies or retires to head to Washington. So this will be a once-in-a-political-lifetime chance for a Colorado politician to head East.

The enormous population growth in Colorado in the last decade, particularly the Front Range urban corridor and suburbs of Denver, makes some kind of further division of the metro area to accommodate a prospective CD-8 the most likely scenario. That’s good news for Colorado Democrats based on recent election results, particularly the end of ticket-splitting in suburban CD-6 that kept GOP Rep. Mike Coffman in office well past his expiration date.

And yes, assuming the state’s blue trajectory in recent years holds course, just about any way it’s drawn we expect the action for CD-8 will be in the Democratic primary. There simply aren’t enough Republicans to go around anymore.

27 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ParkHill says:

    Just looking at national demographic trends, over the past decade, rural areas have lost population to urban & suburban areas. That means that in general, the population of the electoral districts created in 2010 have excess Democrats in districts and insufficient Republicans. As these districts are re-leveled, the Republicans will lose a few seats overall.

    Certainly all of the existing Front Range districts need to decrease population to create the new district, and the two rural districts will need to add some population to keep them even.

    This was here discussed a year ago, and I think the points made there have not changed drastically. In particular, see the numbers that DENependent ran from last years 2020 estimates. The only thing I would add to his comments is that Larimer and Weld have continued growing quickly.

    The point I made a year ago is that it will be hard for to make districts that don't end up being 5 Democrats and 3 Republicans. Denver is so blue we waste votes there, but fortunately the Republicans are concentrated in three logical districts: El Paso, the Western Slope, and the Eastern plains.

    The Republican squeeze will be worse in the State House and Senate districts.


    • Mike W. says:

      4 Dems and 4 Reps. Each side has four dominant population centers: Denver, Boulder, Lakewood, and Aurora for Democrats; El Paso, Douglas, Weld, and Mesa/Delta Counties for Republicans. Start combining any of them and you quickly run into a problem. None of the potential combinations make enough sense to execute in an independent commission, and the only logical cracks would happen in Denver County in favor of a Hispanic-majority district (which probably wouldn’t impact the 4-4 partisan split). 

      • DENependent says:

        I largely agree, but it looks 4-3-1 to me. There is likely to be one district that is very competitive at first just as CD-7 was quite the closely divided district when it was first created. It will likely be somewhere in the metro area outside Denver.

        The Republicans will have two districts that will be extremely solid Republican, a rural one and El Paso, and one more that might just swing Democratic in really big wave year for Democrats. (Very unlikely.) One that Cook would call “Leans Republican”.

        The Democrats are going to get three “Likely” or “Solid Democrat” as their floor and one more “Leans Democrat” seat.

        The last one could be anything from “Democratic Toss Up” to “Republican Toss Up”, but I think the commission is likely to favor creating such a district.

        I admit this is just looking at the numbers from 15k meters up rather than really getting down in the numbers for about 24 hours.

  2. kwtree says:

    Here’s a better map. 

    As Park wrote, the discussion about reapportionment a year ago was very detailed and informative. I’d still like to see the 5th include Pueblo, and combine Larimer and Weld counties for the 8th district per Den E’s numbers. It would leave CD3 And CD4 red, make CD5a little more purple, and CD8 would be a competitive district.

    The redistricting commission will have 4 Ds, 4 Rs, 4 Indy/ Uaf , per 2018’s Amendment Y.

    • Mike W. says:

      Larimer-Weld would be a lean R district, even with the wave it went for Stapleton/Buck/Yu/Trump/Glenn. Adding Pueblo makes 5 a lighter shade of red, closer to cheap horror blood rather than the current expensive stuff. 7 could be redrawn to be pretty red as well in the name of "competitiveness." We'd lose a Democrat under those lines. 

      • Larimer+Weld went to Stapleton by less than 1%. (Probably the best race for evaluation IMHO.) Given the population growth rate and partisan distribution of new residents, I suspect that a district strictly limited to those two counties would be an early toss-up, quickly moving to Democratic just like 2011's CO-07.

        Whatever your hopes in increasing Republican representation from the state, you should probably quench them in the realities at hand. The commission will be multi-partisan, has to follow strict guidelines that still favor traditional lines over "competitiveness", and has to work with an increasingly Democratic voter base. The list of good redistricting options is not infinite.

        • ParkHill says:

          I agree with this regarding Larimer and Weld.

          The Republicans have a particular difficulty because the Party has been completely absorbed by the radical right-wing Borg. They have very little experience or willingness to appeal to the moderate center. Senators Collins and Gardner have held office only by pretending to be moderates.

          In this climate of Trumpism, pretending to be moderate will lose you the Republican primary. Being a full-throated gun-nut, dumphuckistan Republican will lose you the general in an approximately moderate district.

        • Mike W. says:

          I'm rather offended that you'd think I would ever want to help the Cultists. I'm talking inevitability here.

          Weld County is moving away from us. Polis did worse there than Hick, one of the VERY few places where that held true. Larimer County isn't moving nearly as much in the opposite direction. Could a Dem win in that district? Sure. Will they when there's a Democrat in the White House, and our midterm turnout drops off sharply while said Cultists continue to move further and further into an united insanity? I really fucking doubt it. 

          I’m perfectly open to a 5-3 map, but I’ve yet to see lines that I honestly believe a commission would take up, and I don’t believe a Larimer-Weld district would be part of a 5-3 map simply for how much all the other district lines in the state would need to change to accommodate it.

  3. JohnInDenver says:

    NCSL, our hometown national institution, lists Colorado as doing redistricting for Congressional seats with the criteria of:

    • Required: Compact, Contiguous, Preserve Political Subdivisions, Preserve Communities of Interest, Competitive
    • Prohibited: Intentionally Favor or Disfavor an Incumbent, Candidate or Party

    I don't envy the staff trying to draw up maps, somehow incorporate a review of alternative maps which may be submitted by just about anyone, and summarize additional comments favoring or opposing the maps, urging priorities among the "required" criteria, and trying to clarify "communities of interest."

    There currently are 3,200 precincts, if I'm reading the SoS's data correctly. They range in size from 1 voter up to 4,479 voters.

    Does anyone know if the two redistricting groups are empowered to redistrict at the precinct level? 


  4. kwtree says:

    Here’s the text of Amendment Z,  the Senate concurrent resolution 18-005 that pertains to redrawing state legislative districts. “Precinct level” is not mentioned in the text, but

    requiring the Commission to draw state legislative districts using communities of interest, as well as political subdivisions such as cities and counties, and then to maximize the number of competitive state legislative seats to the extent possible; and prohibiting maps from being drawn to dilute the electoral influence of any racial or ethnic group, or to protect any incumbent, any political candidate, or any political party.

    I interpret this to mean that precincts as a whole could change from one legislator’s district to another’s, but I doubt if precinct boundaries would be redrawn  much, if at all. That would fall under keeping “communities of interest” , like people whose kids are in certain school districts, together. 

    Also, precincts can vary wildly in size. A densely populated apartment complex might have thousands of people, while a rural or mega mansion area of the same geographic size might have very few voters living in it.  
    When you “cut turf” for canvassers, you usually try to keep it to under 300 per canvasser, but that might be half  or a quarter of a precinct, or several precincts. 

    So it won’t be subject to the same kind of numerical balancing that the US Congress districts will be. That’s my take on it, anyway.


    • Precincts aren't strictly related to redistricting and reapportionment. Precincts are a county-level decision related to the physical elections process itself, and while the counties often draw them to represent contiguous communities of interest, they can and have been split between legislative districts in the past, and nothing prevents them from being so split in the future.

      Past SCOTUS decisions have stated that state legislative districts must represent "equal" populations – no Federal Senate disparities for States! "Equal" to the Court is more than 10% between smallest and largest districts. However, Amendment Z tells the Reapportionment Commission to make the districts as mathematically equal as possible – it's Rule #1. So State legislative districts should be very equal in representation.

  5. Blackie says:

    Colorado aside for a moment: "Texas is poised to gain two seats", and if one looks closely, those two both may be Democrats because of the growth of both Dallas and Houston. Along with Austin's booming population, moving district lines will be needed to balance the Texas delegation. And from what I see, the Texas GOP will be the losers. 

    • RepealAndReplace says:

      Let's not forget how creative Tom Delay was able to be back in 2001 with drawing extreme Republican districts. Since both houses of the legislature and the governorship are controlled by the GOP, expect them to do everything possible to reclaim those House seats lost to Dems in 2018.

      • The DeLay-mander was about as extreme as you could get in Texas without blatantly breaking Federal law. The increase in Democratic voters there will make it difficult at best to add more Republican seats. They'll try I'm sure – unless Texas Dems sneak in and take the state House majority – but there isn't much maneuvering room.

        • RepealAndReplace says:

          You're right in that it may be more difficult to Delay-mander this time because the GOP is losing the suburbs. The days of drawing suburban/rural Republican districts may be gone thanks to Trump.

  6. Mike W. says:

    The next district is almost guaranteed to be centered on Douglas County and therefore will be a Republican pickup. Anything immediately north of the county that's close to competitive will be drowned out by its rightward lean. The good news at least is Crow's district will be shored up, though it will likely have to move further into Adams to make up for whatever he may lose in southern Arapahoe. 

    • DENependent says:

      Why would a new district be centered on Douglas County? Where does the other half a district come from to make it compact and not break up too many counties/cities?

      Why does it make more sense to do that than to center the new district on Weld County?

      If you have played around with the numbers in a spreadsheet or more sophisticated program I would be very interested in your results.

      • Mike W. says:

        Those two things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. I just refer to Weld as the 4th since its been part of that district for the last fifty years. It could very well shrink down to just Larimer and Weld counties plus some change if needed, but that changes all the other districts quite drastically. The 2nd has to pick up nearly half its population again and eat further into JeffCo, and you're still left with an 8th district that needs to go somewhere. It THAT ends up taking in the plains (which can't be grouped into Larimer/Weld in their entirety) then where does the other 600k people come from? The answer is, mostly, DougCo, which ends up being the anchor of that district.  

        As for county cracks: from what I can tell you can safely make a map that only splits three counties in the entire state: JeffCo, Adams, and Arapahoe. This also means you can minimize city cracks, since Aurora, Arvada, Westminster, Littleton, Bow Mar, and Columbine cross county lines to begin with.

  7. RepealAndReplace says:

    We may live to regret setting up the independent commission to draw the districts. With Dems holding both houses of the legislature and the governorship, and with some creativity, we could have packed all the Republicans into CD 4 and CD 5.

    Or at worst, if such a map did not hold up constitutionally (i.e., the communities of interest requirement), then we would have had to give them CDs 3, 4, and 5.

    Think about it:  in 1981, 1991, 2001, and 2011, we had divided state government and a judge had to draw the boundaries. But that isn't likely in 2021. Ah, a lost opportunity……

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