A Colorado Supreme Court order might have given the state’s redistricting commissioners a little more time to finish their maps, but it’s not entirely clear what the court’s decision on Monday means.
Staff and attorneys for the commissions said they will need to talk more with their attorneys at official commission meetings, perhaps in non-public executive session, in order to decide how they interpret what the court has said.
Earlier this month, the congressional redistricting commissions asked the state Supreme Court for ways to deal with the months-delayed census data and deadlines that came with the constitutional amendments establishing the independent redistricting commission system. The state constitution requires the commissions to finish the congressional maps by Sept. 1 and the legislative maps by Sept. 15.
The commission asked the court to either explicitly allow the commissions to finish maps later than the deadlines in the constitution, allow a condensed public hearing schedule and non-final census data or provide a more specific schedule of court procedures that will play out later this year.
The court neither said blowing the deadlines is OK, nor that the commission should use non-final data and a compressed public hearing schedule, but did provide a schedule for the filing of briefs, oral arguments and the final ruling on whether the redrawn maps pass the court’s judicial review.
The court said it will require briefs to be filed by Oct. 8 for the congressional commission’s maps and Oct. 22 for the legislative commission’s maps. Both deadlines come with a preceding seven-day period allowed for anyone interested in filing a brief to be able to review the maps. Functionally, the dates mean the court expects maps to be reviewable by Oct. 1 and Oct. 15, in order for the schedule to work.
But the court’s order doesn’t address whether that means the commissions can use those as new deadlines to finish drawing the maps.
Pierce Lively, an attorney for the commissions, said figuring that out will likely require conversations among the commissioners and with their attorneys.
Christopher Jackson, an election and appellate court attorney with Holland & Hart, said the process could get messy.
“If the commission misses the deadlines, it’s an open question as to what happens,” he said.
If the commissions fail to produce maps by their deadlines, the constitution requires the commissions’ staff to submit the last draft version of maps to the court. But, Jackson said, that seems to assume the reason for failing to meet the deadlines would be because the commissions fail to agree on maps, not because commissioners didn’t get census data with enough time to draw the maps. It doesn’t seem to contemplate the commissions agreeing on maps, Jackson said, only weeks after the deadlines have passed.
If the commissioners and staff continued to work on the maps past the deadline, it’s unclear what would then happen.
“There’s no obvious way to enforce this,” Jackson said.