With 13 days to go, Colorado’s congressional mapmakers find agreement

Thirteen days before its final deadline, Colorado’s congressional redistricting panel is coalescing around a Democratic commissioner’s plan for redrawing U.S. House districts.

The commission voted 8-4 on Monday to move ahead with Commissioner Martha Coleman’s outline and told the commission’s nonpartisan staff to formalize her ideas into a map, which was released Wednesday.

“As I listen to the discussions, we are coming together and coalescing around things that I think will work,” Commissioner Danny Moore, a Republican from Centennial, said of Coleman’s map last week.

Coleman’s proposed U.S. House map would create a new 8th District just north of Denver without dramatically changing the other state’s other seven districts. Denver and Colorado Springs would keep their own district, as would the Western Slope and Eastern Plains. A north Colorado district would include the college towns of Boulder and Fort Collins, while two other districts would be in the suburbs just west and east of Denver.

Wednesday’s map is the third released by the commission and differs significantly from their second map, which used a north-south configuration that was unpopular with commissioners and most citizens who testified at public hearings. The second map would have placed northwest Colorado in the same district as Boulder and put Grand Junction in the same district as southeast Colorado.

Over the course of two lengthy meetings in the last week that devolved at times into bouts of bickering, commissioners from across the political spectrum signaled support for Coleman’s map and a willingness to tinker with it until there is sufficient support for a vote.

“This map really does represent compromise,” Commissioner JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin, a Republican from Aurora, said during Monday’s meeting. “It tries to fold in some major themes that we’ve heard and gives us an opportunity to make more competitive districts.”

Eight votes are needed to approve a final map, which commissioners have until Sept. 28 to send to the Colorado Supreme Court for review. If it doesn’t, state employees will draw one and send it to the court instead — a scenario that commissioners say would be a dereliction of their duty.

Under the third iteration of the proposed U.S. House district map, five districts would favor Democrats: the northern district, the Denver district and the three suburban Denver districts. Three districts would favor Republicans like now: those in Colorado Springs, the Western Slope and Eastern Plains. Only the new 8th District would be competitive, meaning current members of Congress would almost certainly be reelected next year.

The commission will debate the map Thursday night. If it does not vote to approve a map in the next week, its staff will draw another map and release it Sept. 23. The commission can then vote on that map — or any other map it chooses. If the commission can’t wrangle eight votes for a map by Sept. 28, the Sept. 23 staff map will be sent to the Supreme Court.

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