Colorado Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments For New State Legislative Maps

While the newly redesigned State House and Senate district maps face fewer legal objections than their congressional counterparts, they still must authorize the Colorado Supreme Court before going into effect.

Objections to these maps revolve around the argument that they are dividing towns like Lakewood and Greeley without justification and not creating enough competitive neighborhoods.


Nine groups submitted briefs to the Colorado Supreme Court in response to proposed legislative maps, and five raised specific objections. The court heard argument on these documents on October 25.

This is the latest step in a months-long process that for the first time saw two independent commissions redrawing the state’s legislative and parliamentary lines, rather than relying on politicians. The Independent Legislative Redistribution Commission was in charge of maps of the State House and Senate, deciding the boundaries of the state’s 100 legislative districts.

Most of the objections to legislative maps have focused on specific regions which have been divided into a bloc.

In its brief, attorneys for the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization argued that the legislative committee prioritizes communities of interest in its House map, but not the Senate map, which divides the city. of Lakewood. He used public testimony as proof that Lakewood should remain whole.

“There is a lack of public commentary supporting the Lakewood split in the approved Senate map. Unlike other communities of interest, the Legislative Commission never provided a description of the community of interest which, in its view, justified this split, ”the brief states.

The new Colorado House District Map approved by the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistribution Commission on October 12, 2021. Click on the map for an interactive version. (Screenshot of Colorado Independent Redistribution Commissions)

Fair Lines Colorado, a Democrat-aligned group, also opposes the Senate card due to the Lakewood split.

Fair Lines Colorado and CLLARO both support the approved house card.

Richard Kaufman, the lawyer for the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission who addressed the court on Monday, said the commission was justified in splitting Lakewood because it preserved a community of interest in Wheat Ridge and Lakewood and along the Boulevard Sheridan. The split was therefore necessary for numerical reasons, he said.

“The commission preserved these two communities of interest in Senate District 22. However, the consolidation of these two interests resulted in a district that could not contain all of Lakewood at once,” he said.

Doris Morgan filed a resident challenge that argued that Pueblo West, an unincorporated community in Pueblo County, should be preserved in a single house district. The map approved by the commission divides the area into the 60th and 47th house districts.

“The final plan, if approved by this Court, would reduce the ability of the citizens of Pueblo West to achieve fair and effective representation on matters of significant concern – including shared interests in public policy concerns such as ‘education, recreation, governance, environment, transport, water needs and supplies, and issues of regional importance,’ reads his brief.

Pueblo West, however, is not a political subdivision, so the commission did not need to prioritize its integrity, Kaufman said. He said if the area was kept whole it would cause a “ripple effect” on the map.

“It’s not one of those cases where you can move a line and it doesn’t impact the rest of the map,” he said.

While the final plans are not perfect and are not the maps the Republicans of Colorado would have drawn, they are the result of a faithful application of the constitutional criteria agreed upon for the redistribution by the Commission and should therefore be approved by this Court. .

– Extract from a joint brief filed by Colorado Republicans with the State Supreme Court

Tom Norton, Republican and former mayor of Greeley, has opposed both House and Senate cards because of how they divide Greeley. He argued that the division was “entirely racially motivated” and wrote that dividing Greeley in order to increase the Hispanic population in Senate District 13 violates guarantees of equal protection.

“By choosing to divide the town of Greeley to serve that racial purpose, and apparently no other purpose that is clear from the record … ‘racial considerations,’ he wrote.

He suggested that returning the map so that Greeley remains whole in a single Senate district would be an easy fix and not create a domino effect that undoes the rest of the boundaries.

Fair Lines Colorado, however, argued in its brief that the commission had reason to divide Greeley because of the economic, racial, and cultural differences between the city’s east and west sides. The commission adequately preserved a racial or ethnic community of interest by dividing the city, the group argued.

Kaufman agreed with this logic while defending the commission’s decision to split Greeley.

“It was done because East Greeley has very different legislative issues,” he said.

Lynn Gerber, a Republican who lives in Jefferson County, opposes both House and Senate cards on the grounds that they do not maximize competitiveness. His brief does not mention specific districts in the House or Senate that could be more competitive with an adjustment of the lines.

Kaufman argued that the commission used appropriate discretion because it applied other requirements, such as communities of interest and adherence to voting rights law, before considering competitiveness.

“When you look at all the factors above that in the hierarchy, the plan that we submitted to this tribunal is better than the plan that has 20 (competitive) districts. Competitiveness is at the bottom of the list, ”he said.

Colorado Republicans support passage of both maps and have submitted a joint brief between the Colorado Republican Committee, the Republican State Senate Caucus, and the Republican State House Caucus.

“While the final plans are not perfect and are not the maps Colorado Republicans would have drawn, they are the result of a faithful application of the agreed constitutional criteria for the redistribution of the Commission and should therefore be approved by this Commission. Court ”this brief reads.

Pictured is the final congressional district map approved on September 28, 2021 by the Colorado Independent Congressional Commission. Click on the map for an interactive version. (Screenshot of Colorado Independent Redistribution Commissions)

The legislative cards face fewer and simpler objections than the congressional cards, which opponents say have diluted the voting power of the state’s Latin American and Hispanic populations. Colorado Common Cause and All on the Line, two groups opposed to congressional cards, did not contest the legislative elections.

“The Legislative Commission does not raise any of the concerns allegedly raised under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution that the Congressional Commission raised in this Court,” wrote Mark Grueskin, counsel for Fair Lines Colorado, in the group memory. “This Commission is right.

The Colorado Supreme Court has until Nov. 15 to issue an opinion on legislative maps and until Nov. 1 to issue an opinion on the congressional map. If he rejects either, the court will send him back to the commission with instructions on what needs to change.

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