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GUEST COLUMN: Understanding the redistricting process in El Paso County

By: Mattie Albert
June 10, 2017 Updated: June 12, 2017 at 9:11 am
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El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman presented three options for county commissioner district adjustments at the county commissioner meeting on May 25.

The options reflect minor technical changes of no more than five precincts and may be viewed on the clerk's website at http://car.elpasoco.com.

The "why" and "how" behind redistricting, and how residents can offer feedback:

Why redistrict?

Commissioner districts may be reviewed and adjusted every two years (30-10-306(1), C.R.S.). Colorado statute requires that each district "shall be as nearly equal in population as possible"; with that guidance, the three options Broerman discussed were designed.

Additionally, the clerk and recorder sought to minimize changes to the current districts in order to 1) reduce impacts to existing communities, 2) preserve key features and shared history of each district and to 3) minimize the number of voters who may not be able to vote for a new commissioner in two consecutive general elections because of district changes.

What is gerrymandering?

The options have been incorrectly characterized as gerrymandering during the public comment. To describe the proposals as gerrymandering injects unnecessary political rancor into the process and significantly mischaracterizes the changes.

Gerrymandering is a term dating back to 1812 when Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry oversaw the reshaping of election districts for his political party's benefit. The shape of one resulting district was similar to that of a salamander - hence, gerrymander.

Since then, the practice has been used by both major political parties throughout the country to gain favorable political boundaries. The El Paso County redistricting complies with state law and intentionally safeguards against the introduction of racial, political or socioeconomic data (i.e., gerrymandering).

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office used only population numbers (not political party affiliation) and common sense to develop the three options.

The results are proposals that align El Paso County's commissioner districts with natural and man-made geographical boundaries. The evidence is clear - minor technical adjustments do not gerrymandering make. Compare the current map with the proposed changes and you will see the minor nature of the changes.

The Clerk and Recorder's Office is committed to ensuring that county electoral boundaries reflect common-sense community and geographical lines, and we welcome your feedback.

The public has 30 days from when proposals are made (May 25) to submit questions and concerns about the options. Public comment was encouraged during the board meeting on May 25, and the board will hear comments before voting on the redistricting options on June 29.

Additionally, the Clerk and Recorder's Office is hosting two open houses at the Citizens Service Center when residents may review the maps on a larger scale.

If individuals are unable to attend the open houses 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. June 8 and June 22, they are more than welcome to stop by the office at any time, or to contact Mattie Albert at MattieAlbert@elpasoco.com, (719) 520-6226 with comments.

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Mattie Albert is manager of strategy and sevelopment/PIO contact for the El Paso County Office of the Clerk and Recorder. Readers can contact Albert via email: mattiealbert@elpasoco.com.

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