“Communities of DISinterest” Rule in First Congressional Map

Via “Axios” (6/24/21)

On Wednesday, the nonpartisan staff of the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released its first look at a potential new map for 2022. Colorado Pols readers had a lot to say about the new proposed map (click here for a better browsing version), and with good reason.

After spending more time looking at the new map and the associated data, we thought it might be helpful to publish a short Q&A in which we provide both the questions and the answers. Let’s get to it…

 

Q: This map seems like it might cause a lot of chaos for Congressional races, amirite?

A: Well, sort of. But before we go any further, you must understand that this is a PRELIMINARY map drawn by the nonpartisan staff of Colorado’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission. Every redistricting process eventually has to start somewhere, and that’s what we have here — a start. The final map approved for the 2022 election cycle will look different than this; the question is more about HOW different it will be.

This initial map has not been endorsed or rejected by the Redistricting Commission, members of which will travel around the state in July and August to hear comments and concerns about various options for re-drawing the districts. If members of the public, especially ones waking up to see Golden/Lakewood and Douglas County in the same district (see below) have a chance to weigh in on some of these proposals, it’s hard to imagine how this map doesn’t change.

 

Q: At first glance, which political party comes out ahead in this map?

A: Oh, the Republicans, and it’s not even close. As Kyle Clark explained Wednesday evening on 9News (“Next with Kyle Clark”):

“The preliminary map for eight congressional districts in Colorado is a dream for Republicans.”

This map would essentially create four seats that lean toward Democrats and four seats that lean toward Republicans even in the most neutral electoral climate.

 

 

 

This is not at all reflective of Colorado’s actual electorate, which chose Democrat Joe Biden for President in 2020 by a 13-point margin and Democrat John Hickenlooper by a 9-point margin. Go back another cycle, to 2018, and you see that Democrats won EVERY statewide race on the ballot, including Governor (Democrat Jared Polis won by 11 points).  

Colorado’s current Congressional makeup includes four Democrats and three Republicans. Democrats have consistently gained ground in Colorado over the last decade, while Republicans have declined; in that context, giving Republicans another seat is hard to defend.

 

 

Q: But Republicans are saying that this map favors Democrats… 

A: Of course they are. It’s in the interests of Republicans to attempt to spin things differently than they appear. Here’s a good example of that narrative attempt:

 

The only way you can explain this as a 5-3 Democratic map is if you base new district lines SOLELY on Democrat Joe Biden’s 13-point margin of victory in Colorado from 2020. The last election cycle was very good for Democrats in Colorado in a year with an incredibly-unpopular incumbent Republican President on the ballot. The new map could be considered a 5-3 Democratic advantage in only this scenario, which would ignore the other nine years that are supposed to be included in the redistricting discussion. 

The redistricting process that takes place every 10 years should account for population changes and demographic shifts from the entire previous decade. Focusing on the 2020 presidential race in Colorado only serves people with an agenda to skew the map to the left, or to help lazy political analysts construct a superficial reading of the state’s politics.

 

Q: Some of these districts combine areas that are not very similar. Is this supposed to happen?

A: One of the major factors that must be considered in the drawing of new maps is about maintaining so-called “Communities of Interest,” which seems to have gotten overlooked in many places. Look at the proposed lines for CD-7, for example:

The proposed boundaries of CD-7 are shaded in a lovely puke-brown color.

 

Golden and Castle Rock are communities of DIS-interest. It defies common sense to draw a city in Northwest Jefferson County into the same district as a city in far Southeast Douglas County. This is like trying to make an edible sandwich out of peanut butter and bologna. 

The problems with CD-7 in the preliminary plan show what happens when you’re too focused on “balancing” a map between two unequal political parties at the expense of rational district boundaries. 

 

Q: What are some of the other notable changes in this new map?

A: We discussed some of the irregularities with CD-7 above, so we’ll focus elsewhere in answering this question. 

CD8: Everybody was excited to see where Colorado’s newest Congressional district might end up. As we noted a few weeks ago, a proposal from the Colorado Hispanic Chamber of Commerce creating a new district north of Denver seems to be gaining traction.


Pueblo: In the new map, Pueblo is drawn completely out of CD-3 and moved into a CD-4 that encompasses most of Eastern Colorado, from Wyoming to the North and New Mexico to the South.

 

Western Boulder: Under this map, the western half of one of Colorado’s most liberal counties ends up in CD-3, which has traditionally been one of the most conservative areas in the state. 

 

Dirt: The current boundaries for CD-3 encompass most of the land in Colorado, stretching from the Western Slope to Southern Colorado. In the new map, CD-4 takes some of the CD-3 landmass to create two districts that would seem to be more geographically-manageable. 

 

 

Q: So…now what?

A: More public feedback and discussion. Check out the Redistricting website for more information on how you can make your voice heard. 

Next week (June 28) the nonpartisan staff will release an initial map for state legislative seats, which will be considerably more complicated than the Congressional map.

 

15 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DaCashman says:

    The reason this map favors the GOP is because you cannot possibly draw a map that doesn't. Republicans are spread out and Democrats are compact. So many Democrats are packed into Denver, Boulder County, and Aurora. This results in a 4-4 split that features narrower margins for Republicans than Democrats, because Republicans live in areas that are more politically competitive.

    Unless you drew Boulder County or Larimer County into a mountain district, which would be legitimately gerrymandering, you cannot fix this problem. The proposed D7 voted 53-44 for Biden…that make you happy?

    Also, you really overestimate how blue Colorado is. You yap about the 13 point margin, but that 13 point margin gave Biden 55% of the vote. That means he's closer to a 4-4 split (50%) than a 5-3 split (62.5%). And that election was obviously an outlier because of a weak GOP candidate – same with the gubernatorial election. The AG election might be a little too Republican, but the SoS and Treasurer elections are a pretty good diagnosis of where the state actually is.

    And, it really doesn't matter. If the map was 8-0 Republicans, but the map met all the Constitution criteria, that would be better than forcing a 5-3 split.

    Golden and Castle Rock aren't that similar? Aren't they both mountain towns with modest populations, at the edges of the Denver metro area? I do think it's weird that *Lakewood* and Castle Rock are in the same district, or that Dacono is with Arvada, hopefully the second draft manages to fix that. But this map is WAY better than some of the weird crap I saw Democrats propose, like a Southern Colorado district. This takes almost all the comments on communities of interest – like Longmont being in D2, having two rural districts, El Paso being as unied as possible, having a NoCo district, keeping Denver whole, keeping the San Luis Valley whole and with the Pueblo area – and gets as close as you can.

    • JohnInDenver says:

      DaCashman … valid points. 

      But on the House district splits, we aren't going to be looking at state-wide numbers for President.  From coverage, in pursuit of "competitive," the staff chose the AG race, the narrowest state contest. 

      In an ideal world, we'd have a sense of ALL the people, not just the 75% or so of the eligible who voted in 2020.  Since I don't think we can do that, the district map needs to hold up to multiple perspectives:  state-wide election results, probably county-by-county results, and almost certainly voter registrations (now with state-wide active registrations at about 29% D, 26% R, 2% other parties, 42% unaffiliated).

    • Mike W. says:

      So completely denying a voice to Democrats in a state Republicans haven’t managed to win in seven years is better than a natural 5-3 split?  Who in their right mind would believe this? What are you on? How the fuck do you get off suggesting I shouldn’t get a voice in my own fucking state?

      Go storm a fucking capitol building in some other country and get the fuck out of our Republic. 

    • Early Worm says:

      I gotta agree with DaCashman on this one. Looking at it with a wide lens, it's hard to imagine Colorado, without a gerrymander, being anything other than a reasonably solid 4-3 Dem split, with one competitive district.  Were the partisans looking for a 6-2 D advantage? You simply cannot do that without a gerrymander of Denver and Boulder. 

      Also, I have spent a lot of time in both Golden and Castle Rock. They may be politically divergent right now, but they are both full of upwardly mobile professionals (and their kids), many of whom moved from Texas and California. They have a lot more in common which each other than with the rural, mountain, or urban populations of the state.

  2. JohnInDenver says:

    First thing, there may well be noticeable differences between Census Bureau estimates for July 1, 2019 and the actual Census of April 1, 2020. 

    Next, this reflects judgment of staff — I have no idea how the 12 people on the commission view it, how people will talk  about it at the mandated listening sessions, what an 8 person majority may be able to coalesce on, or, failing finding a majority, what the judicial panel will do.

    So, an interesting start to discussion.  but not much more.

     

  3. NOV GOP meltdown says:

    I do understand the idea that this map is preliminary, but it is a really shitty starting point for any negotiation – Democrats are playing defense at the outset.  I would guess that all of the additional population Colorado has gained to attain this extra congressional seat is overwhelmingly D or I, and for that we get a net gain in seats by the Republicans ?  How does that even make sense ?  No different than voter suppression, or the filibuster – D's are just getting fucked again and are fine with it.

    One dudes humble opinion. I really hope this map changes. A lot.

  4. JeffcoDemo says:

    Ed wins this map by 5-8, if he holds on a few more terms this will turn D just like Jeffco.

    But yeah, the bigger picture is we start behind and have to play catch up yet again.

  5. Sparky says:

    It’s insane that a state with a 4-3 split that is increasingly moving left from there could still end up cramming in another Republican district.

  6. MartinMark says:

    So, while Republicans in other states are trying to legislate the Democratic party out of existence, Democrats here are trying to be fair.  I have a couple predictions:

    1. In trying to appear fair, the Dems will in fact give at least a slight degree of favor to the GOP.

    2. Regardless of the outcome, the GOP will shriek as if the Democrats have come to take away their children.

  7. Sunmusing says:

    I have a problem with a republican, a Big Lie supporter, and a known liar, sitting on this commission…there is no way we will see any kind of a normal and fair redistricting with any republican sitting on the commission….

  8. Meiner49er says:

    Leave it to Dems to give away a hard-fought/won political advantage in the interest of being "fair." sad

  9. NotHopeful says:

    It seems to me that the staff confused a mandate to draw the boundaries of districts without considering partisan objectives with a goal of assuring that each party has the same number of districts. The staff maps also neglect "communities of interest," as others have pointed out. There is just no way that southern Jeffco belongs with DougCo in a district. One is suburban, the other exurban; one is far more diverse (Jeffco) than the other.

    A fair and nonpartisan map that recognizes communities of interest should probably result in a 5-3 or even 6-2 divide between districts likely to favor Democrats and those that are likely to favor the GOP, considering the overall shift of voter registration and sentiment in this state.

  10. vertigo700 says:

    I think a fairer map would be 4 for sure D (1,2, 6,7) , 2 for sure R (4,5) and two lean districts (the new 8 which would be lean D) and a CO-3 which would lean R. 

    They could've easily accomplished this by making 8 a southern burbs, DougCo district. Basically the parts of the burbs that used to be in CO-1, some parts of southern JeffCo and then Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, etc. Let CO-6 wrap around DIA like it did before. And give Fremont to CO-4 and have CO-3 pick up like Gilpin County or Estes Park. If CO-3 was a like R+3-4 district, we could get rid of Boebert, but longterm probably have someone like Scott Tipton which would be fine. 

Leave a Reply

Comment from your Facebook account


You may comment with your Colorado Pols account above (click here to register), or via Facebook below.