Now that new congressional and legislative district maps officially are officially redrawn, counties across the state are looking to do the same with their own precincts and commissioner district lines.
As a result, the Mesa County Elections division and the Board of County Commissioners are asking for public input on how those precinct lines should look.
While those lines will become important to members of local political parties when they caucus next year for the all-important mid-term elections, it also would impact the current commissioner district lines, said former Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who along with Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner have been tapped with overseeing the county’s election division. As a result, they are heading up the new precinct and commissioner map redistricting process with Brandi Bantz, the division’s director of elections.
Because of a delay in getting congressional and legislative redistricting maps approved, partly because of the pandemic and delays in getting U.S. Census data, the three are having to do all of this by the end of January 2022, which Williams said is doable, in part, because Bantz and other election division employees have been working on this matter for at least the past month.
Election officials couldn’t get all this done sooner because they, by law, had to wait for those final legislative maps. That’s because lines drawn in those maps dictate precinct and commissioner district lines. Under Colorado law, precincts must have as even a number in population for each — no more than 2,000 active registered voters — and none are allowed to cross other district boundaries, such as House districts.
“When we do the new precincts, we’ll be able to tweak the commissioner district lines, too,” Williams said. “It won’t change them that much. They are pretty much in compliance now.”
As a result of the new map for the 65 Colorado House districts, and because of population shifts in the county, the Elections Division is proposing to add 10 new precincts.
The lines of about 20 others also need to be redrawn because they exceed the 2,000-voter limit.
Any final map would require formal approval from the three-member commission. Because Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and her deputy, Belinda Knisley, are barred from overseeing the Elections Division, at least for the time being, Williams said he has the legal authority to start the process of redrawing precinct lines because that is under the purview of the commissioners, and not the clerk’s office.
Currently, the division is seeking public comment on its proposed precinct map, particularly from members of the major political parties. Williams said he hopes to present a final proposed map to the commissioners by early next month. After the new precincts are decided, the county will consider new commissioner district lines, which the commissioners also are legally required to review and give final approval, Williams said.
All of this is not only important to political parties, but also for the various candidates who want to run next year.
There is only one seat on the commission that will be up for grabs in the 2022 fall election, that for District 2. That seat currently is held by Commissioner Scott McInnis, but because of term limits he can’t run again.
At this time, there are three Republicans who have announced bids for that seat: Mesa County Assessor Ken Brownlee, county resident Bobbie Daniel and state Sen. Ray Scott. As the district is currently drawn, only Brownlee and Daniel live it in.
Scott currently residents in District 1. Scott ran for that seat last year, but lost in the primary to now Commissioner Cody Davis. Scott is term limited and cannot run for the Colorado Senate again. Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, is running to replace him in the Colorado Senate.