The final maps redrawing Colorado House and Senate lines are substantially the same as the ones released last week by the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission, at least as far as the Western Slope is concerned.
While the maps still could change after they are reviewed by the Colorado Supreme Court, if they stand it means that more House and Senate districts on this side of the Continental Divide will become more competitive, with some districts turning from favoring Republicans to Democrats.
The 12-member commission, which is evenly divided between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters, approved the House map on an 11-1 vote, and the Senate map unanimously.
The maps displace several local members of the Legislature, putting some in the same district, leaving them to battle to see who gets to represent the region after the 2022 general election, when the maps would become effective.
Under the House map, the Western Slope would go from having seven members to six, and those districts could result in an even 3-3 split between the political parties. Currently, the region has four Republican and three Democratic representatives.
The Senate map, meanwhile, could create an even 2-2 split between Republicans and Democrats. Currently, four Republicans represent the region and one Democrat.
The maps make slight changes to the House districts in Mesa County, leaving Grand Junction as its own House district and the rest of the county tied with the northwest corner of Delta County, including the city of Delta. The map also expands Senate District 7, which encompasses the rest of the county into a similar portion of Delta County.
Most of the changes impact Garfield County and northwest Colorado, turning House District 57, which currently is represented by New Castle Republican Perry Will, decidedly blue.
The map also expands House District 26, which is represented by Eagle Democrat Dylan Roberts, tying right-leaning Moffat and Rio Blanco counties with the more heavily populated left-leaning Routt and Eagle counties, making it favor Democrats by nearly 7%.
The map also moves the more populated southeast section of Garfield County into Senate District 5, and also would include the city of Montrose, making the district more favorable to Republicans. As a result, Republican Sens. Bob Rankin of Carbondale and Don Coram of Montrose would be in the same district, with both no longer residing in the districts they currently represent.
Roberts had already announced his plans to run for SD5, but now won’t be able to because his hometown would now be in Senate District 8, which Rankin currently represents. That district, which Rankin narrowly won last year, would favor Democrats by about 3%.
The Senate map would take the cities and towns of Parachute, Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale out of SD8 and put them into SD5.
Unlike congressional district candidates, state law requires members of the Legislature to live in the districts they represent. The redrawn Senate District 6 in southwestern Colorado, most of which Coram currently represents, would be the most competitive of all in the region, slightly favoring Democrats by about 1%, at least based on the outcomes of the last eight elections.
That district loses the city of Montrose, which is heavily Republican, and gains more blue-leaning counties in the San Luis Valley. It also displaces Sen. Cleave Simpson, R-Alamosa, putting Alamosa County in with the rest of southwest Colorado. Currently, Simpson represents southern Colorado east of the San Juan Mountains to the Kansas border.
Overall, the two maps continue to favor Democrats statewide, giving them about the same advantage in the 65-member House and 35-member Senate. Currently, Democrats control the Senate 20-15, and the House 41-24.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the maps in the next few weeks, and are to rule by Nov. 15 on whether they follow constitutional requirements.