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Montezuma County officials disappointed with latest map released by redistricting commission

State panel’s latest house map likely will be the final version

The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission released its third, and likely last, drafts of its state legislative redistricting maps Oct.5 that would separate the northwestern portion of Montezuma County into a different Colorado House of Representatives district.

The commission is holding a meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday to grant final plan approval ahead of its deadline to submit it to the Colorado Supreme Court by Friday.

Doug Roth, GIS coordinator, and Rachel Medina, GIS specialist for the county, discussed the latest draft of the state House map Tuesday morning at the Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners meeting.

Roth said at the meeting that the map “somehow keeps getting further away from what we’re hoping to see.”

The redistricting occurs every 10 years in line with the census and is overseen by the committee, which was established by Amendments Y and Z in the Colorado Constitution.

It redraws boundaries for the Colorado General Assembly – both the state’s House of Representatives and Senate – as well as Colorado’s U.S. congressional districts.

Colorado is in the minority of states that use independent committees to redraw districts.

On a local level, Montezuma County has been most concerned about the state House map, because the county would remain whole in the proposed congressional and state Senate districts.

Oct 21, 2021
Montezuma County addresses redistricting: Don’t split us up

County commissioners, along with the GIS department, have sent comments to the redistricting commission throughout its process of developing the legislative maps, asking for planners to implement the least amount of change possible.

Roth and Medina previously proposed a map to the redistricting commission that would suggest placing Montezuma, Dolores, La Plata and San Juan counties in one state House district – as well as the western sides of San Miguel and Montrose counties.

They hoped that if that map wasn’t accepted, the commission would at least shift the map to align with the Dolores School District RE-4 boundaries.

These changes would make sense, given that the areas are similar and there are already school district and voter precinct boundaries that align there, Roth said.

“I’m not quite sure why they’re not taking any of our comments,” Roth said.

The second state House map proposed by the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission.

The latest map aligns less with school district boundaries than the second map, released Sept. 13, and will lead to them being redrawn, he said.

One of the county’s main concerns was keeping the water basin and watershed together, he said.

Roth said the committee didn’t seem to take into account communities of interest, which the state constitution defines as “any group in Colorado that shares one or more substantial interests that may be the subject of federal legislative action, is composed of a reasonably proximate population, and thus should be considered for inclusion within a single district for purposes of ensuring its fair and effective representation.”

The redistricting committee is tasked with priorities when creating the maps. Ranked in order, they are:

  • Equal representation in districts.
  • Compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 to protect the votes of minority groups.
  • Preserving communities of interest.
  • Ensuring political competitiveness.

“It’s apparent that this group has digressed into trying to serve political and special interests in their decision making,” Roth said.

He said a member on the redistricting commission is from Durango. Roth thinks he had a “special interest” in keeping La Plata, Archuleta and San Juan counties together.

Medina said it would take a signifcant amount of time to figure out whether local voters would be in the 58th or 59th state House districts.

Roth said the GIS department would provide Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder Kim Percell’s department streets and address ranges to try to make it easier.

While the redistricting will be a burden on officials, it will be even more cumbersome for voters, he said.

“So everything we’ve submitted has basically fallen on deaf ears?” said Commissioner Jim Candelaria.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Roth said.

kparkinson@the-journal.com