COLORADO SPRINGS — For as much as the population of El Paso County grew in the past decade, the preliminary map for the 5th Congressional District has shrunk. The current district boundaries include voters in Teller, Park, Chaffee, and Fremont counties. The new proposal limits the district to just the boundaries of El Paso County with a section in the southeast corner of the county moving into Congressional District 4.
On Thursday, the Colorado Independent Redistrict Commission met at UCCS to gather feedback from the public about the proposed new boundaries. Voters who gave feedback expressed a desire to keep the county represented as a whole as much as possible.
"My perspective on this is obviously, we have in this county, your goal is to keep counties together, we have more than what you need for a district in this county. So, it's a question of what you're carving off," said Katherine Czukas.
El Paso County Commissioner Carrie Geitner had previously presented the commission with a letter representing the interests of the Board of County Commissioners, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Government, and local chambers of commerce.
"I think keeping El Paso County in the majority whole, which is the way that the preliminary map is laid out, I think is really important to all of those organizations," Geitner told the panel.
In 2018, Colorado voters approved Amendments Y and Z to the state constitution. Those measures created two independent redistricting commissions. One will redraw boundaries for legislative offices in the Colorado House and Senate, the other for seats in Congress.
The 12 member panels are made up of 4 Democratic representatives, 4 Republicans, and 4 unaffiliated voters. The initial maps were created by non-partisan legislative staff. The commissioners are currently holding a series of public hearings around the state to public feedback on the proposals.
The commissioners must create districts that have equal populations within the allowed deviation, comply with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, are contiguous compact, and preserve communities of interest.
Commissioner Simon Tafoya, a Democratic voter from Colorado's 1st Congressional District, asked Czukas and Geitner about the connections between people in El Paso County and neighboring communities like Woodland Park and Canon City to see where communities of interest may exist.
"We also look at other areas that maybe have an affinity to Colorado Springs and may have similar interests at the federal level," he said.
Thursday's hearing is an early step in the redistricting process. The US Census Bureau will give the commissioners updated population data later this month.
Members will then use that data and public comments gathered from these hearings to make any adjustments to the maps.
The commissioners will hold two hearings on Friday, one in Trinidad and the other in Alamosa. They will return to El Paso County for another meeting about District 5 Monday at 7 pm at Manitou Springs City Hall.