Science Notes

Colorado is Getting a New Congressional District: Here’s What You Need to Know

By Kayla Zacharias

May 2021

How does redistricting work?

As a result of new census data showing population growth in Colorado over the last ten years, the state will gain an eighth congressional district. States determine for themselves how they go about the redistricting process, and in Colorado, congressional district lines are drawn by commissions (in many other states, this is done by the state legislature). 

As of 2018, two independent commissions are responsible for congressional and state legislative redistricting. The commissions are composed of 12 Colorado residents each: four Democrats, four Republicans, and four unaffiliated members. Commissioners must be non-politicians, which means they can’t be legislators, recent candidates, party officials or lobbyists. 

Districts are required to be similar in population size, which means districts around the front range are typically smaller, and districts to the east and west are much larger. Amendment Z, which was also approved in 2018, mandates that when redrawing districts, the commissions must attempt to preserve “communities of interest” – essentially, groups of people with shared concerns. The commissions are also required to make districts as politically competitive as possible; the theory being that legislators in competitive districts are forced to listen to all of their constituents, as opposed to only their party. 

What happens now?

The commission will soon begin redrawing district lines in the state, but they’ll work with more than census data – they’re also taking input from communities around the state, especially regarding communities of interest (provide public comment here). It could take until the end of the year for the new districts to be finalized, and who fills the seat will be decided in the 2022 midterm elections. 

Several prominent Republicans and one Democrat have their eye on the new seat, according to the Colorado Sun. In Colorado, politicians don’t have to live in the district they represent (as long as they’re residents of the state), so the seat is essentially fair game; however, voters sometimes view carpetbaggers unfavorably at the ballot box. 

How will another district impact policy?

This early on, it’s hard to say. Currently, Colorado’s seven congressional districts are split nearly half and half politically, with four Democrats and three Republicans in office. Several political organizations that represent the state’s Western Slope and other rural areas are fighting for their counties to be kept together, while an advocacy group called All On The Line wants the new district to be on the Front Range. 

Where the district is located will have a huge impact on what political opinions its representative will hold and what issues they will prioritize. Historically, Democrats have dominated along the Front Range, and Republicans have held their ground in more rural parts of the state. The two parties tend to clash when it comes to oil and gas regulation, as many rural counties depend on carbon-based energy production to support their economies, and environmentalists in more urban parts of the state push for measures that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Gun regulation has also been a hot button issue as of late, and Colorado’s congresspeople are split; Democratic Representatives Jason Crow and Joe Neguse have been outspoken in their support of stronger regulations to prevent gun violence, while Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert displayed guns behind her during a virtual House committee hearing in Februrary. 

Some issues that tend to have bipartisan support will likely be favored by the new representative regardless of their political affiliation, such as expanding broadband access and upgrading infrastructure.

To stay up-to-date on news regarding Colorado’s new congressional district, follow us on Twitter @COScienceNet.


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