A Tale Of Two Headlines: When Somebody Is BSing You

The release over the past week of preliminary draft redistricting maps for Colorado’s congressional, state legislative, and state senate districts ahead of a summer of hearings by the state’s new independent redistricting commissions has produced a huge volume of speculation of…varying quality, which we in this space have tried hard to avoid, recognizing as the commission’s staff took pains to remind anxious politicos that these are mere starting points for the discussion that will produce the actual maps we’ll live and die by in Colorado politics for the next decade. Colorado’s oft-second-guessed attempt to de-politicize the redistricting process in 2018 with the passage of Amendments Y & Z will now face its ultimate test, and rather than stepping on the established process we’re watching to see how it unfolds.

While enforcing this temporary neutrality, however, we are allowed to take note when local mainstream media outlets commit to analysis of these preliminary maps. This is especially true when, as is the case between the Denver Post and Denver Gazette’s headlines on the new state legislative maps today, somebody must by definition be wrong:

As you can see, the Denver Post’s analysis concludes that the preliminary redistricting map “keeps Statehouse Dems in control,” while the Gazette claims the exact same preliminary proposed map “spell bad news for House Dems!” It’s not often that two pieces of hard news analysis come to such diametrically opposite conclusions about the same subject matter, but here’s an example of exactly that. There are lots of ways to evaluate this conflict, taking into account for example the perceived biases of the two outlets, in which the Gazette is by the House GOP Minority’s own estimate the more “GOP friendly” of the two.

For ourselves, we’re stopping at the word “preliminary” and that’s where we still advise all of you to hold up too. There’s just no reason to get worked up about maps that are not intended to be final, and it’s the hearings and commission work ahead that will make all the difference–making knee-jerk speculation over these preliminary drafts not only needless but actually harmful to the process.

While the commission does its work, our best advice is don’t believe the hype either way. Instead, get involved in the process–and when the time comes to put your desired spin on the final map, you’ll know what to say.

And with that, we’ll let our readers fight this one out.

6 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MartinMark says:

    Your willingness to withhold judgement is generous, but may turn out to be naive.

    Perhaps this early map is indeed a mere a conceptual model; filled with placeholders, and merely intending to whet the whistle for the real work to come later.

    Or, on the other hand, perhaps (intentionally or not) this map has already become the First Offer, and will serve as an Anchoring device, and so just like that: we are already in the negotiations phase.

    And here we were, thinking we were still in the specifications phase, even as the train started to leave the platform.  Knife; meet gun.

    There is no doubt, if another map comes out later with substantive differences, the howling will commence, as if the first map had been carved on stone tablets.


    • JohnInDenver says:

      re:  "even releasing this map strikes me as naive bordering on stupid – which makes me wonder about who did it and why."

      If you don't know the process, I'm wondering a bit about who should be considered "as naive bordering on stupid."

      The staff of the independent redistricting commissions released the map, because the process mandated a release before the commissions began their rounds of hearings. 

      Section 44.4. Preparation, amendment, and approval of plans -public hearings and participation.(1) The commission shall begin by considering a plan, created by nonpartisan staff alone, to be known as the "preliminary plan". The preliminary plan must be presented and published no earlier than thirty days and no later than forty-five days after the commission has convened or the necessary census data are available, whichever is later.

      At the first public hearing at which the preliminary plan is presented, nonpartisan staff shall explain how the plan was created, how the plan addresses the categories of public comments received, and how the plan complies with the criteria prescribed in section 44.3 of this article V.

      • MartinMark says:

        Ok thanks for the info, I revised my post.  It was a poor paragraph anyway.

        As I said in the caveat ("intentional or not") regardless of intent, this first draft will be treated as a negotiating anchor.  It already is.

        I'll leave it to insiders to figure out if the first draft was bona fide nonpartisan best effort, or if someone gamed it somehow.

        But I can say that in my experience as a change management facilitator, first drafts and straw models are highly volatile tools and tend to take on lives of their own.

        Either way, my point now is, like it or not, the jockying and posturing has begun.  Wait for the "official" first round to begin at your peril.

  2. gertie97 says:

    As my husband has warned for years: “Warning! Warning! Journalist Doing Math!'


  3. Dano says:

    Keep in mind when the maps were released, the Commissions' staffs also release a ton of data showing demographics for the proposed districts. This information is available here for the legislative maps and here for the congressional maps.

    Looking at the data provided based on voter registration and voter performance (measured using the AG race in 2018) the preliminary State House map has:

    30 districts leaning more than 5%  Dem

    7 districts leaning 0.1-5% Dem

    4 districts leaning 0.1-5% GOP

    24 districts leaning more than 5% GOP

    So the House map does favor Dems 37-28 (or 30-24 with 11 competitive districts if you like)

    For the State Senate:

    18 districts leaning more than 5%  Dem

    2 districts leaning 0.1-5% Dem

    2 districts leaning 0.1-5% GOP

    12 districts leaning more than 5% GOP

    So Dems are pretty safe there too.

    Looks like the Post has the more accurate headline in this case.

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