Legislative map blurs district lines

Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, would not be able to drive from one end of her House district to the other without going through Rep. Ray Scott’s district.

Montrose Republican Rep. Don Coram, meanwhile, would no longer come north to Delta to represent folks there. Instead, Rep. Roger Wilson, a Glenwood Springs Democrat, would come west to represent them.

But while those Colorado House members could see some dramatic changes to their districts from a proposed new map approved by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission this week, they’re not as troubled as Rep. Randy Baumgardner.

That Grand County Republican would no longer live in the House District 57 he represents.

“It’s not the optimal map I would have liked to see,” Baumgardner said. “I’ve had numerous calls from people in Grand County who had some serious concerns, but I’m not going to get all bent out of shape just yet. It’s only a preliminary map. A lot can still change.”

The 11-member commission has been meeting this spring to redraw House and Senate district lines, something the panel does every 10 years when new U.S. Census population figures are released.

As a result of the additional 1 million residents the state picked up in the past decade, all of the House districts on the Western Slope have more voters than they should, requiring each to be redrawn so all 65 House districts in the state are nearly equal in population.

The commission is redrawing sections of the state one at a time. So far, it has released proposed new lines for House and Senate districts on the Eastern Plains, southern Colorado and now the Western Slope. When a map is completed for the entire state, the commission will hold public hearings around Colorado in late summer and early fall to seek input.

As it stands now, the commission is likely to get an earful of criticism, and that’s only from the lawmakers whose districts are affected.

While Baumgardner isn’t pleased with the prospect of no longer residing in the district he represents, Bradford doesn’t like the idea of putting Mesa County’s Precinct 81 into Scott’s district. The commission did that to reduce the population size of Bradford’s district by about 1,800 voters.

The trouble with that, Bradford said, is the precinct includes sections of Colorado Highways 133 and 65, the only main roads that connect one end of her district to the other. The switch also means the town of Mesa and Powderhorn ski area would go from Bradford’s district to Scott’s.

“I’ll be driving in somebody’s else’s districts to just go around my own,” Bradford said. “It makes no sense. Collbran and Mesa are communities of interest. Why don’t they just take a small precinct out of the city? It’s split already.”

Scott, meanwhile, said the map appeared to be fair to him, but he admitted he’s only given it a quick glance.

The proposed new lines make no changes to how he and Bradford split Grand Junction, continuing to place the north side of the city in Bradford’s district and the southern end in Scott’s.

Scott’s district also need to lose voters, to the tune of nearly 9,000. The commission accomplished that by splitting the city of Delta, keeping part in Scott’s district and putting the rest in Wilson’s.

“They’re not set in stone,” Scott said of the proposed lines. “There will be some other changes coming.”

The proposed Senate map, meanwhile, makes few changes in the immediate area. It would take Battlement Mesa out of Senate District 7, which Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, currently represents, and unite it with the rest of Garfield County, which Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, represents in Senate District 8.

The proposal does, however, spell big changes for Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village. Her Senate District 5 currently includes the San Luis Valley, but won’t under the proposed map. Because the district needs to lose about 15,000 voters, the most of any on the Western Slope, the newly drawn lines would take that part away, making it entirely made up of counties west of the Continental Divide.


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