Redistricting commissions in Steamboat on Friday to hear public comment on preliminary maps
Routt County residents will have the opportunity to tell Colorado’s two independent redistricting commissions what they think of preliminary maps released last month in an in-person meeting in Steamboat Springs on Friday.
Both commissions, one in charge of drawing the new congressional districts and the other drawing State Senate and House legislative districts, will take feedback from the public both in person and virtually. While there is not a requirement to sign up to testify before the meeting, it could help ensure a chance to speak.
Robin Schepper, a Routt County resident who serves as a Democratic representative on the bipartisan legislative commission, said a meeting in Lakewood on Tuesday night had more than 40 people wishing to speak, with the meeting lasting until about 10:45 p.m.
“I would recommend signing up,” Schepper said, adding that the meeting will continue until everyone who wants to speak has the opportunity.
Each speaker will have three minutes to speak, and Schepper said it would help commissioners and staff to send in written testimony online in addition to testifying in-person. If someone has access, Schepper said it would be helpful to bring copies of sample maps or other notes for commissioners to reference at the meeting.
“Even if you sent something in the online portal for public comment, it is great if you can come in person as well. It is not an either/or,” Schepper said.
The meeting Friday is the ninth of 32 meetings the commissions are conducting around the state, with at least three in each congressional district. There is another meeting in Craig on Saturday.
What: Joint Independent Redistricting Commission Meeting
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave.
How: Attend in-person or virtually. Sign up to testify here.
Craig meeting: 11 a.m. Saturday at Northwestern Community College Library, 2801 W Ninth St.
Routt County residents have submitted 88 online comments to the commissions as of Wednesday afternoon. Schepper said commissioners are given a packet of these comments prior to the meeting.
On staff maps released last month, Routt County would remain in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, which is currently represented by Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Rifle. The preliminary drawing has this district spanning much of the Western Slope, but would no longer stretch as far east as Pueblo County.
Colorado’s population growth over the past decade garnered the state an eighth district, so rather than just redrawing boundaries, the congressional commission is also weighing where the new district will be.
Routt County’s State Senate district didn’t change much on the staff maps, as it still stretches across much of Northwest Colorado. The change would cut Summit County out of the district and replace it with a portion of Larimer County that does not include Fort Collins. The district’s current representative, Sen. Bob Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale, would still live within the boundary.
The most significant change for Routt County on the preliminary maps was for the State House. Rather than being grouped with Eagle County and the resort town of Vail, Routt County was grouped with Moffat, Rio Blanco and much of Garfield counties, though Glenwood Springs and Carbondale are carved out of the district.
As laid out on the staff maps, Rep. Dylan Roberts, a Democrat from Avon, would no longer live in Routt County’s house district. Earlier this week, Roberts announced he is pursuing a run for State Senate rather than a reelection campaign for his current House seat.
Schepper emphasized that these maps are preliminary and will almost surely change, potentially significantly. The staff maps were drawn using data from the American Community Survey and not the most recent U.S. Census as required by law.
The commissions expect to have that census data by August 16. When the statewide meetings conclude at the end of August, the commissions will meet and provide input to staff about what priorities they are looking for in the new maps.
Staff will then create three maps for each set of districts, and the relevant commission will have to approve one by a majority vote. There will be another round of public meetings with one in each congressional district, with the 3rd District meeting being in Glenwood Springs sometime in September.
Staff will then revise that map before it goes to the Colorado Supreme Court for final approval.
Districts must have roughly equal populations, with just a 5% difference between the largest and smallest district. They also much comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and be contiguous in geography. Commissioners are also supposed to preserve whole communities of interest, make districts compact and make them competitive when possible.
“Where we draw the line will determine all the different people that we’re grouped with,” Schepper said. “If the representative has communities of interests instead of what I would call communities of disinterest, then it’s easier for a legislator to represent that community.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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