June 27, 2011
Democrats won both rounds at the reapportionment commission meeting on Monday, when their maps for the state House and Senate were approved with the help of two of the five Republican commissioners.
The three swing districts in the maps considered were in El Paso County, and both approved maps gave Democrats what they wanted.
Reapportionment happens every decade, as does Congressional redistricting, after the Census is released. The goal is to ensure that every legislator represents the same number of people. This year, the target population for House districts changed to 77,372, and the target for Senate districts is 143,691.
The Democrats’ Senate map was approved 8-3, with two Republicans in support, and the Democrats’ House map passed 7-4, with one Republican in support. The commission’s unaffiliated chairman, Mario Carrera, sided with Democrats both times.
State Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, called the maps “blatantly partisan,” and said they’d been drawn only to support the Democratic party.
Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, countered that the Democratic maps promote competitive districts, including in his own, Senate District 11.
“What Democrats get with this district is a chance to be represented. With the other districts, it’s absolute (Republican control),” he said.
SD 11 is one of the biggest swing districts in the state. When it was redrawn after the last Census, Republican Ed Jones won. Morse, knocked him off in 2006, and was re-elected by a razor-thin margin last year.
“In 2014, it’ll be heavily contested,” Morse said.
The map maintains the status quo for SD 11, said Bob Loevy, a Colorado College political science professor and long-time political observer who is a Republican member of the committee. The district, he said, is competitive and does not need to be redrawn to change the makeup of Democrats and Republicans. He agreed with Lambert, and said the maps were “perfectly gerrymandered,” but said that’s the point for him.
“I want to see more swing districts,” he said, adding that most legislative seats never change parties.
The author of the Republican maps introduced a plan for SD 11 to retain the GOP’s voter registration advantage of 35 percent to the Democrats’ 32 percent, with the remaining 33 percent as unaffiliated. The current breakdown is basically the same, with 35 percent Republican, 33 percent Democratic, and 32 percent unaffiliated.
The Democratic map reverses the partisan numbers. Democrats would have a 35 percent to 31 percent advantage over Republicans, with 34 percent unaffiliated.
Loevy said he thinks that’s appropriate, since every other Senate district in El Paso County is solidly Republican. He said the county’s 84,000 Democrats should have a shot at representation in the state Senate.
El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams, who testified at the hearing, said the reverse is true in Denver, which houses 73,000 Republicans to 208,000 Democrats.
Loevy said after the meeting that he hopes the commission’s Democrats will agree to creating more competitive districts in the Denver metro area.
The two House districts the commission focused on were HD 17 and HD 18, also both in El Paso County. The first is held by Republican Mark Barker, and the latter by Democrat Pete Lee. Under the Democratic maps, they would have significant voter registration advantages in both districts. Currently, Republicans outnumber Democrats in Barker’s district.
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