Under preliminary redistricting maps, Rep. Roberts would no longer represent Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Under preliminary redistricting maps, Rep. Roberts would no longer represent Routt County

Staff maps from the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commissioner released Tuesday would make it so Routt County’s current representative in the Colorado House would no longer live in the district.

Rep. Dylan Roberts, a Democrat from Avon, has represented the state’s 26th District, which includes all of Routt and Eagle counties, since 2017.

But under the preliminary maps created by nonpartisan commission staff, Routt County would be in a district with Moffat and Rio Blanco counties and most of Garfield, rather than Eagle County and Vail. There would be no incumbent for Routt County’s proposed district, which is designated No. 57 on the maps.

The maps are almost sure to change, as redistricting commissioners didn’t weigh in on the creation of the preliminary maps. The maps were not drawn with the legally mandated census data and the public still has more time to comment.

But as drawn, the maps pit current legislators against each other in at least 13 districts, according to the Colorado Sun, including Roberts and current District 61 Rep. Julie McCluskie, a Democrat who currently represents Pitkin, Summit, Lake, Gunnison and Delta counties.

In an email, Roberts declined to share his thoughts on the initial maps, saying “it is an independent commission now, so we need to let them do their work without the influence of elected officials.”

The initial Colorado Senate map would have Routt in a similar district as it is now, but it would extend farther east to include most of Larimer County, though it would not include large Front Range communities like Fort Collins. Sen. Bob Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale who currently represents Routt County, would still live within the proposed boundary.

Districts must have roughly equal populations, be comprised of contiguous areas and comply with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Districts are also supposed to preserve communities of interest, which means keeping together areas that have similar issues. Districts are also supposed to be as compact as possible, and the commission is supposed to maximize the number of them with competitive races.

These maps were drawn using data from the 2019 American Community Survey, because data from the 2020 U.S. Census isn’t expected to be available until August.

Staff did consider public comments when drawing the maps, but redistricting commissioners will hold public forums across the state to get more public feedback, with one scheduled for July in Steamboat Springs, though the location is yet to be announced.

“This is the best guess (the maps) that staff did,” said Robin Schepper, a Democratic member of the legislative commission from Steamboat. “This is not the first time (staff) has been working on these issues, but we ask for public comment because people know their areas better than anyone else.”

Schepper said if people agree or disagree with how Routt County was included on the map, they should come to one of the forums, submit public comment online or use the online portal to submit their own version of what they think the map should look like.

“Public comment is important,” Schepper said. “We’re really in the beginning of the process, and people have every opportunity to send in their comments and their proposed maps.”

After the meetings are complete at the end of August, staff will draw another version of the maps, and commissioners will hold one meeting in each of the current congressional districts. Schepper said she believed the meeting for the 3rd District would be in Glenwood Springs.

From there, staff will create up to three versions of the maps that commissioners will vote on in October. Then, the Colorado Supreme Court needs to sign off on the maps before they can be finalized. The first election the maps would be used for would be fall 2022.

“What it looks like now, I am cautiously optimistic. But what it is going to look like six months from now, it is likely going to be a totally different story,” said Pete Wood, chair of the Routt County Republicans.

Wood said he believes the way the district is drawn now is representative of common interests across Northwest Colorado like ranching and energy production, as well as a district that is competitive.

Still, Wood said he felt Eagle County and areas to the west of it represented a lot of energy and agriculture interests as well and including the resort community of Vail with Steamboat would provide for good representation.

Catherine Carson, chair of the Routt County Democrats, said she felt the preliminary maps missed the mark, ignoring Steamboat’s resort community as a community of interest.

“Eagle and Routt County were the definition of communities of interest,” Carson said, pointing to resort-based economies, strong agriculture, affordable housing challenges and the importance of climate. “It is very unfortunate that (staff) didn’t recognize that and keep that district together.”

As the maps are currently drawn, Carson said she believed whomever would be elected to represent the district would have to choose which counties in the district to support on certain issues, rather than representing the entire district. To Carson, this would leave Routt County without a voice in Denver on many of these issues.

“It is almost as if they were looking at the Routt County of the 1950s and didn’t take into account what our community is like today,” Carson said. “I think they looked at numbers and geographical location and didn’t consider communities of interest at all.”

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