Colorado’s independent redistricting commissions are again scrambling to adjust the process and timeline they’re following to redraw the state’s political maps, all caused by a months-long delay in the decennial census.
On Monday, the congressional redistricting commission authorized their attorney to draft a pleading they hope to file Tuesday with the Colorado Supreme Court that will ask whether the final maps can come later than the deadlines put into the state constitution with the passage of Amendments Y and Z, which established the voter approved independent redistricting commission.
The language of Amendments Y and Z, passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2018, requires the commissions, one that’s redrawing U.S. House districts and one that’s redrawing state legislative districts, to be finished Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 respectively, and file the maps with the state supreme court for review.
The congressional redistricting commission had planned for only about two weeks between when the U.S. Census Bureau has most recently said they will deliver final decennial census data and when they would need to file their final plan with the state Supreme Court, and only about four weeks for the legislative commission. But the commissioners, their staff and their attorneys have increasingly worried that will not be enough time.
Earlier in the year, state lawmakers and even the commissions’ staff attorney had argued that because of how state supreme court jurisdiction applies to political bodies, it wouldn’t be possible to directly file questions with the supreme court, called interrogatories.
But now, just seven weeks before the first of the two deadlines, the attorney for the congressional redistricting commission believes he has found a way to go directly to the state supreme court for clarity on the matter. Jereme DeHerrera, the congressional commission’s outside attorney, said Monday he believes that the commissions can use the same legal docket that they intend to use for filing their plan with the supreme court later in the year to file questions like whether the commissions can adjust the deadlines.
The commissions also agreed to begin planning a way to either reduce the number of public input hearings they will hold this summer, or compress the timeline by moving forward some of the planned hearings, or a combination of both. The commissions initially planned for 32 public input hearings around the state, and the constitution requires a minimum of 21.
The latest actions by the commissions come as they have just begun their statewide public input hearing tour. The commissions visited three towns in eastern Colorado over the past weekend.
Attendance was sparse at each, with only tens of attendants and only a handful of speakers. Some asked to have agricultural areas and water basins protected by keeping them grouped together in the new legislative and congressional maps.
Some argued that the preliminary legislative map should be adjusted to put Washington County into the furthest northwest state house district, with Yuma, Logan and Morgan Counties, instead of being grouped with areas extending to the state’s southeast corner.
The next public input hearing will be held Tuesday in Arvada, with more meetings in the Denver metro area in the coming days. The commissions' staff said they expect more attendants at the hearings in the metro areas than in the rural areas.