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New districts for 2022 midterms, in part thanks to math

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Posted at 1:44 PM, Oct 19, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS — November's election will be the first where three new maps will be used to elect congressional and state elected offices.

For the first time, both legislative and congressional maps were created through Independent Redistricting Commissions. The groups were made up of four Democrats, four Republicans, and four Unaffiliated voters.

The commissions were approved by Colorado voters in 2018. The process included a set of criteria for commissioners to follow. Commissioners also traveled throughout the state to get feedback on the maps and looked at data on different map variations.

A group of mathematics professors also played a role in the process.

"It turns out that in a good process, there's a lot of room for math to be involved," Beth Malmskog, an associate professor of mathematics at Colorado College said, "Math can raise a red flag when something un-fair is going on."

Malmskog is one of several professors in a group that utilized their expertise for Colorado's redistricting process. It's through a process called "ensemble analysis". Essentially, the mathematicians randomly generated maps through various algorithms and overlayed it on political data to measure just how fair Colorado's maps are.

"This gives you a really cool statistical picture of what kind of outcomes are likely," Malmskog said.

While Malmskog points to the benefit of utilizing math in the redistricting process, she notes the process also needs a human element to make sure other aspects of the maps are fair.

A few people involved in the process were from Colorado Springs. Lisa Wilkes, a Democrat who is also running for El Paso County Clerk and Recorder served on the congressional redistricting commission. John Buckley, a Republican served on the legislative commission.

Both commissioners reflected on their time serving on the commissions as something positive for the state.

"If your focus is on duty, not on politics, not on partisanship, not on party, if your focus is on doing the right thing by the people, that sounds corny, but it's true, that's how we did it," Buckley said.

Wilkes feels the new maps will also encourage more people to vote.

"A fair and open redistricting map is important for people to be able to be heard. And if they feel like they're able to be heard, then they're more likely to vote, because if they don't think that their voice matters, they're not going to vote," Wilkes said.

University of Colorado Colorado Springs Political Science Department Chair Joshua Dunn says the commission appears to have done a fair job in creating maps that represent various communities and add some competitiveness.

"I don't think there's going to be anything really crazy that happens in Colorado because of redistricting," Dunn said, "looking at what they did I think you have to say that they did a pretty reasonable job."

Whether or not the new maps have an impact on the balance of power in Colorado is something that will be seen come election night.

News5 is helping you prepare for Election 2022 with guides to find out what's on the ballot, what it means to you, and where to deliver your ballot across the region. Click here for our Election Guide.

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