Denver City Council reduced to two possible redistricting maps
And then there were two.
On March 14, the Denver City Council voted to send two potential maps through the redistricting process. The council will have to agree on a single card by March 29; it will come into force in time for the April 2023 municipal elections.
The Denver City Council has been working on the redistricting process for the past few months, which it oversees for the city after the release of U.S. Census results every decade. The updated maps are meant to reflect changes in population size in council districts. According to current U.S. Census data, Denver’s population has grown from 600,158 in 2010 to 715,522 in 2020. Council maps are meant to keep the district’s populations within 10% of approximately 65,000 voters; according to the rules of the city charter, neighborhoods must also be as compact as possible and contain contiguous territory. Denver has eleven districts, each represented by a council member, as well as two at-large representatives.
The redistricting process began with six separate council-sponsored maps. At the March 14 meeting, council members weighed in on the remaining four maps: one sponsored by Councilor Candi CdeBaca, another by Councilor Kevin Flynn, a third co-sponsored by Councilor Jamie Torres and Councilor Amanda Sandoval, and a fourth co-sponsored by six board members.
The CdeBaca map, which she said would better maintain minority-majority districts, received only one vote, coming from CdeBaca itself. Flynn, recognizing that his map – which he believed to be the simplest and most compact – didn’t stand a chance, removed it from consideration.
That left Map D, co-sponsored by six board members, and Map E, the joint Torres/Sandoval proposal. Each was voted on separately at the March 14 committee meeting; each received seven votes, giving both the majority they needed to move on to a legal analysis by Denver city prosecutors and an introduction to the full council meeting on March 21. While councilor Robin Kniech said she preferred map D, she also voted in favor of map E so that this option could move to the full council meeting without the need for a direct brief by Torres or Sandoval. .
Map D is “a map that I believe will serve the citizens of Denver and Denver for years to come,” Councilman Jolon Clark, who currently serves in District 7, said at the committee meeting. Clark co-sponsored Map D with Chris Herndon, Paul Kashmann, Chris Hinds, Kendra Black and Stacie Gilmore.
Map D highlights include the addition of a downtown from District 9, which is represented by CdeBaca, to District 10, which is represented by Hinds. District 9 would gain North Park Hill and South Park Hill from District 8, where the time-limited Herndon currently serves as an adviser.
At the same time, District 10 would lose neighborhoods to the south, such as Cherry Creek and Country Club, sending them to District 5, which Councilman Amanda Sawyer represents. Additionally, Map D would move the East Colfax neighborhood entirely into District 8. East Colfax Neighborhood Defenders worked to get all of East Colfax—a diverse neighborhood with significant displacement risks—into the District. 8 so he can join Northeast Park Hill and part of Montbello and jointly advocate on common issues such as gentrification and displacement.
Map E would similarly send the East Colfax neighborhood into District 8. But instead of adding North Park Hill and South Park Hill to District 9, as Map D would do, Map E would send both neighborhoods into the District 5. Another key difference is that Map E would send most of the Union Station neighborhood to District 9, while Map D would place much of that neighborhood in District 10.
Another key difference is that the E map would keep the entire Washington Virginia Vale district, while the D map would divide it.
Torres criticized Map D saying the map hasn’t changed “substantially” even after six public meetings. The E card, on the other hand, has changed significantly from its first to its second version, she said.
Torres also floated the idea of increasing the number of council districts from eleven to thirteen to keep up with Denver’s population growth. This would bring the total number of Denver City Council members to fifteen.
“Adding two more would definitely change the boundaries of our districts, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think we can be better served with slightly smaller districts,” Torres said. “Denver is growing enough that I think we need more board members.”
The increase in council membership is expected to take place through a voter-approved charter change.
The two surviving cards: