Rural Colorado voters urged the state’s congressional redistricting commission on Thursday not to lump them in with Boulder and other “liberal” cities in the Denver metro region.
Members of the public gave the commission an earful about its “first staff plan” released last week, with many comments taking aim at the formation of a new 2nd congressional district that includes Boulder County and the largely rural and mountainous counties in northwestern Colorado. The plan also would put Rep. Lauren Boebert (R), a freshman currently representing the 3rd district, into the safe-for-Democrats 2nd District with Boulder Rep. Joe Neguse (D).
“This map dilutes the voice of rural Colorado,” said Amy Mitchell, a Park County commissioner who spoke during a hearing held virtually and on site in Eagle and Grand Lake.
The current plan is the antithesis of designing districts around “communities of interest,” Loveland resident Michele Miller said.
Energy development, agriculture, and ranching are the primary industries in western Colorado, she said, while in Boulder they’re aerospace, bioscience, and information technology. “These interests are hardly aligned,” she said.
Several Fort Collins residents said they were unhappy with the city being removed from the 2nd district and placed in the 4th district, which is rural and agrarian with lots of oil and gas activity.
The plan was prepared using 2020 Census Data, public comments, and input from commissioners. Staff can provide two more plan proposals to the commission, which must approve a final version by Sept. 28.
Under the state constitution, the new congressional districts must have equal population; be contiguous geographically; comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965; preserve whole communities of interest and whole political subdivisions such as counties, cities, and towns; be as compact as is reasonably possible. After those criteria are met, the maps should maximize the number of competitive districts.
Several residents urged the commission to use the preliminary map released in June that divided most of the rural parts of the state into two districts along east-west lines. The new map reflects more of a north-south divide, with nearly all the state’s southern counties in the new 3rd district that includes substantial Latino populations, such as Pueblo and the San Luis Valley.
Colorado also is getting a new 8th congressional district that, according to the current plan, would lie northwest of Denver and would include several Latino neighborhoods.
“The current maps appear to reflect a lot of the input the Commission heard about not disenfranchising Latino voters and the need for a Southern Colorado district that includes a lot of the old-school Latino families with deep rural roots,” said Laura Chapin, a Democratic political strategist in Denver. “That certainly makes for some more-competitive districts—including Boebert’s.”
Boebert would be a favorite if she were to run in the new 3rd district, assuming the lines stay where they are as drawn at present, said Floyd Ciruli, political science professor at the University of Denver. “Pueblo and the Valley are working class,” he said. “They like guns and Trump was well received, and Boebert did well enough” in those areas, he said.
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