Routt County’s population growth requires redraw of commissioner districts
Routt County’s population growth over the past decade, particularly in its urban center, will require the boundaries of county commissioner districts to be redrawn ahead of the 2022 election cycle.
As it stands, each of the districts includes part of the city limits of Steamboat Springs, which contains more than half the county’s total population. When these lines were drawn after the 2010 census, each district was within one person in total population.
The county added 1,320 people since the last census, and 86% of that population increase came from within the city limits of Steamboat, meaning that more of the city will likely be included in the two outlying commissioner districts after they are redrawn.
Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kim Bonner told commissioners last week that a lot of the growth came near the base of Steamboat Resort in town and will require the addition of a new voting precinct, as well.
Each precinct needs to contain 1,500 or less voters. Bonner said some near the mountain have more than 1,600 currently. This needs to happen by Jan. 30, so the lines are set for the caucuses ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
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The county could spend longer to redraw the commissioner districts, but Bonner said it would be easier just to do it all at once. She suggested they plan for a public hearing in December to discuss proposed maps county staff will draw.
Interestingly, each set of boundaries will be drawn using different data as the precincts are based on voter registration numbers, where the commissioner districts are based on the census population figures.
The commissioner districts outline where in the county someone needs to live to run for a particular seat and not who votes for them. All county voters vote for commissioner, regardless of district.
|Population of Commissioner Districts (8,276 = 1/3 of county population)|
|District||2010 Population||2020 Population||Change|
|One (South Routt)||7,836||7,453||– 383|
|Two (West Routt)||7,837||8,540||+703|
Emy Keeling, Routt County’s geographic information system (GIS) manager, said drawing the new commissioner districts shouldn’t be too challenging and won’t require additional software she had been anticipating to buy to complete the task.
But Commissioner Tim Corrigan mused about rethinking the boundaries, saying he has had people concerned that each commissioner could come from within the city limits of Steamboat as currently drawn.
Corrigan is from Yampa, but his district includes apartment and condo complexes south of Walton Creek Road that are within the city limits. Commissioner Tim Redmond is from Hayden, but his district includes those who live west of 12th Street in Steamboat.
“I am not sure there is an easy way around that because of having to balance the districts by population,” Keeling said. “They have to be within 5% of each other and then be geographically together.”
Corrigan suggested it could be possible to draw a district that would encompass most of the outlying areas in the county together, and then two other districts that shared the population of Steamboat. Keeling said in that scenario, Heritage Park and Steamboat II would likely need to be included in that outlying district.
While, as currently drawn, all three commissioners could be from Steamboat, a map like this would all but assure two lived within the city limits. It would also put both Corrigan and Redmond in the same district, and state law doesn’t allow commissioners to be redistricted out of office.
District three, which is represented by Commissioner Beth Melton and is entirely within the city limits, is the most populous, with about 560 more people than the 8,279 that makes up an even third of the county’s population. District one, represented by Corrigan, is more than 800 people below that mark.
Traditionally, the district one commissioner has been from South Routt, and the district two commissioner has been from the western part of the county.
“My take on it right now, after raising the question, would be it seems like the status quo is working pretty well for Routt County,” Corrigan said.
Redmond said he agreed with Corrigan, adding that he feels responsible to the whole county that elected him and not just his district.
“The discussion is different if there was voting by district,” Melton said. “It is really just identifying who can run, and in reality, anyone can run; it just depends on when in the election cycle.”
Commissioners directed staff to pursue adjusting the current boundaries to balance population in each district without major changes but welcomed feedback if residents felt strongly about what districts should look like.
“It’s possible that we’ll find the person or people in the community that have strong feelings about this,” Corrigan said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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