By Justin Sink
Two prominent Latino groups have released proposed redistricting maps for Colorado, further complicating a process that could have a dramatic effect on the partisan makeup of the state's congressional delegation.
The Colorado state legislature was unable to come to a consensus on a new map earlier this year — Republicans hold the state House, while Democrats control the Senate and governor's mansion — so the redistricting fight has been thrown to the courts. Each party has submitted a new set of proposed districts, and outside interest groups now have the opportunity to submit proposals.
Courts are traditionally sensitive to civil-rights groups in redistricting battles, giving the Latino Forum and Colorado Hispanic Bar Association — the two groups who filed a proposal Friday — particular clout in the fight.
The map would move the San Luis Valley and Pubelo areas out of the 4th congressional district, while Larimer County — one of Colorado's most politically active, and politically independent, areas — would be incorporated into the liberal Boulder district. Practically, those shifts would likely reduce Democratic chances against incumbent freshman Rep. Cory Gardner, who won his seat from a Democrat in the tea party takeover of 2010, but squeeze Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who currently represents Colorado Springs, into a more competitive district.
Republican plans would largely keep the current districts intact; the GOP controls four of Colorado's seven congressional districts. Democrats have proposed a more dramatic shift that would move more than a third of Colorado's population into new districts. Under their plan, Republican Rep. Mike Coffman's safe seat in the Denver suburbs would become a toss-up.
Colorado remains a true swing state in the country, with a rapidly changing population and eclectic mix of citizens aligned outside traditional political categories. Because of its swing-state status — and the relatively high turnover of Colorado's congressional districts — even modest changes to the map could have significant electoral consequences.
Congressional boundaries must be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population shifts measured by the U.S. Census.