Colorado lawmakers have asked the state Supreme Court to evaluate a legislative proposal to change how the first independent redistricting commission will redraw the state’s political maps for the next decade.
Lawmakers want the independent redistricting commissions to start their work without delay, even though the U.S. Census Bureau’s decennial census data required for final maps won’t be ready for several months.
To start mapping, the legislation would instruct the commissions to use 2019 census bureau survey data and other population estimates to draft preliminary maps over the coming months.
The proposal would ensure that the deadlines laid out for the redistricting commissioners will still be met, letting elections officials prepare for the 2022 election and letting candidates prepare for their 2022 campaigns.
But the voter-approved amendments to the state constitution that created the independent redistricting commission system in 2018 include requirements for soliciting public input on the draft maps, drawn with “necessary census data,” which most believe means the decennial census data, not survey and estimate data.
That’s why lawmakers are asking the state high court to weigh in. The House voted 50-13 Tuesday to send the bill as an interrogatory to the Colorado Supreme Court, where the court can OK or can the plan to adjust the state constitution’s redistricting procedures with statute.
The legislation moved quickly through the statehouse, with almost no opposition, and with little input from the redistricting commissions. One of the legislative redistricting commissioners testified on behalf of his commission, in support of the proposal. The congressional redistricting commission has not officially arrived at an opinion on the proposal. Some of the congressional redistricting commissioners have said they believe the commission needs to hire attorneys before getting involved in the legislation. Both commissions are still in the process of hiring their attorneys, after only first convening in March.
Though it has advanced with ease, not all lawmakers support the plan.
Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Penrose, voted against the bill, saying he's skeptical about the legislature or the courts getting involved in the redistricting process and changing the process.
"I don't think we ought to be playing with any aspect of what was voted on by the people in amendment Y and Z," he said.
Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron, shared Hanks' evaluation of the courts' involvement in redistricting, and he opposed sending the bill to the state supreme court because it was advanced through the legislature too hastily, he said.
“They're basically ramrodding this important subject through, without allowing representatives to read and digest the document,” Holtorf said.
Reps. Rod Bockenfeld, R-Watkins, and Matt Soper, R-Delta, also said they felt the bill was not given adequate time or consideration in the legislature.