By a vote of 6-5 on Tuesday, the 11-member commission approved a new map of the state’s House district boundaries that, for Districts 58 and 59, is not a dramatic change from the plan approved in 2001. The most significant change in the plan is shifting Ouray County from District 58 over to District 59, along with shifting northern boundary of District 59 further north into Gunnison County.
The plan will be sent to the Colorado Supreme Court by Dec. 6 for its approval.
According to the Colorado Secretary of State, 43 percent of Ouray County’s registered and active voters are affiliated with the Republican Party with 28 percent registered as Democrats. Shifting those voters to District 59 where 41 percent are registered Republicans (30 percent Democrats), it appears the realignment will have little affect on the political competitiveness of the district.
Losing Ouray County will also likewise have little affect on the competitive nature of District 58, where 47 percent of the entire district is registered Republican compared to the 24 percent registered Democrats.
“I can’t see that the shift will affect either one of the districts very much,” John Hollrah, chair of the Ouray County Democratic Party, said on Wednesday. “We will continue to have a Republican State House rep getting elected in 58. District 59 remains a rather competitive district where I believe either party could prevail.”
While this new plan seems to have little impact on southwest Colorado’s two house districts, it is a seismic change in comparison to the commission’s initial plan that was rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court on Nov. 15. That plan would have split San Miguel County in half, with the east end and Ouray County joining Durango in House District 59. At the same time, the west end of San Miguel County and Cortez would have joined the city of Montrose in District 58.
With Ouray and Telluride with Durango and Mancos with Montrose, that alignment would have combined relatively like-minded resort communities in one district and rural farming towns in another. For District 59, the combination of losing Cortez and adding Telluride and Ouray County would have likely made it a more competitive political district.
“I preferred the plan that was rejected,” Hollrah said. “It put the resort interests together and the western part of San Miguel County was appropriate to be in a district with Montrose County. They seem to have similar goals and interests.”
Regardless, the Supreme Court, which voted 4-2 to reject the plan, believed the plan broke up too many county boundaries while trying to redraw district boundaries.
Statewide, the first plan was unpopular with the Colorado Republican Party but the latest plan seems to be even more unpopular, according to a Nov. 30 Denver Post story.
First, the 11-member Commission approved the new maps 6-5 with the group’s unaffiliated chairman, Mario Carrera, casting the deciding vote with the Democrats in favor of the plan. According to The Post, Republicans on the panel had complained that the Democrats were allowed to submit new maps past the Nov. 23 deadline Carrera had set. Carrera responded by saying the Republican’s “were outsmarted in terms of the approach they took” and that they “had nothing else other than to blame other people for their lack of coordination.”
Along with the initial House redistricting plan, the Supreme Court also threw the first set of Senate redistricting maps. In both instances, the majority of the Supreme Court agreed with the Republicans that too many counties had been split by the plans. The new maps, according to The Post, reduce the number of split counties from 30 to 16 in the House and from nine to seven in the Senate.
The initial House and Senate maps rejected by the court would have also made 33 of 100 districts competitive. The way the new maps are drawn 38 districts would be competitive.
The Supreme Court has set Dec. 9 as the deadline for the Commission to submit a brief in support of the new plan and for objectors to submit objections to new plans. Under the Colorado Constitution, the Commission must file the new plans, approved by the court, with the Secretary of State’s office by Dec. 14.