By law, counties must reset their district boundaries the year following a census, with the next census occurring in 2010. The question before the commissioners is if the statutory requirement of redistricting by July of 2011 is too long to wait, as County Clerk and Recorder Michelle Nauer put it on Monday, “it is clear to us we are out of balance?”
“Mainly based on our experience in these elections,” Commissioner Heidi Albritton said, “and in our conversations with our people, people are concerned about having two commissioners coming from Ouray. This is in part because of a changing dynamic of the community. Log Hill, Cornerstone and Ridgway have changed exponentially. Ouray has stayed the same. I think we could in a broad stroke… separate the boundaries.”
Commissioner Keith Meinert agreed.
“What I think is being discussed now or the impetus for the discussion on redistricting is not just to balance the population, it is to change the district boundaries to represent everybody in the county,” Meinert said. “It’s the fact that we have district boundaries that allow us and encourage two commissioners from the City of Ouray. The kind of redistricting being talked about is to cut the county east to west.”
That way of dividing the district boundaries would put the City of Ouray to the east, the Town of Ridgway in the center and the county’s hinterlands of Log Hill and Colona to the west.
The commissioners generally agreed that redistricting is something worth pursuing, making the next pressing issue a matter of when to reset the boundaries.
Commissioner elections are held on even-numbered years, which means redistricting should occur during an odd-numbered year.
Meinert questioned the plausibility of getting it done this year, and if it did occur, what would happen to his seat. He is up for reelection in 2010, and a boundary change could exclude him from the district he currently resides in.
County Attorney Mary Deganhart said that if a commissioner moves out of his or her district that commissioner seat becomes vacant, but if a district moves away from the commissioner the state statute is basically “silent” to that.
“It is not very clear,” Deganhart said. “It was about fifty-fifty and there is no case law on it.”
Without any formal decision, the commissioners directed staff to look at the implications of redistricting this year.