COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — As a result of recent population growth in our state, Colorado is expected to gain a seat in Congress by the 2022 mid-term elections. This week, the process will begin to choose the people who will draw those new district boundaries.
"The reason that things are happening now is that the Census was taken in 2020 and we do our redistricting in the year after the Census," explained Jessika Shipley, Staff Director for Colorado's Independent Redistricting Committee.
Historically, redistricting is a function handled by state legislatures. In fact, a recent study published online by Loyola Law School indicates that only about a half dozen other states use independent commissions to determine new political boundaries.
Ryan Strickler, Assistant Professor of Political Science at CSU-Pueblo explained that that few politicians are willing to give up that power.
"If a legislature is dominated by Democrats or dominated by Republicans, they can really draw the lines to create a structural advantage for their party," he said.
In 2018, state lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation that put a pair of questions on the ballot asking voters to create independent redistricting commissions. Amendment Y established a board for redrawing Congressional Boundaries, while Amendment Z created a similar board for redrawing districts in the state legislature.
"Coloradans are not afraid of thinking about ways to make their elections better, or fairer, or more inclusive, and this is part of that tradition," said professor Strickler. He noted that Colorado was the first state to grant women's suffrage and our mail-in voting system is seen as a model for other states.
Each commission will consist of 12 members, four of whom are registered Democrats, four Republicans, and four unaffiliated voters. Around 3,000 applications were submitted by people looking to serve on the commissions.
Shipley explained that about 20 percent of the applications were rejected because the voter registration information did not match the records on file with the Secretary of State.
There will be a random drawing on Friday morning to narrow the applicants into groups of 300 Republicans, 300 Democrats, and 450 Unaffiliated voters for the Congressional redistricting commission. A similar drawing will occur Tuesday for the legislative redistricting commission.
On January 8 at 10:00 AM the Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission applicant pools will be narrowed by random selection. Meeting audio: https://t.co/5oJ1EJMkvT Public viewing also available in Old State Library at the Capitol. Legislative meeting not yet scheduled.— CORedistricting (@CORedistricting) January 5, 2021
Then, two panels made up of three recently retired appellate and supreme court judges will then review those groups of applicants and select 50 finalists from each.
"For the Congressional pool, the narrowing has to be done by February 1, and for the legislative pool it has to be done by February 15th," she said.
Half of the board seats will then be filled by a second random drawing from the groups of finalists. The majority and minority leaders in both the Colorado House of Representatives and Colorado Senate will then pick 10 finalists from the original pool of applicants and the panels of judges will use those names to fill the remaining seats.
All 24 board seats are expected to be filed by March 16.