Legislative Redistricting Overview


Historical Information on Legislative Redistricting

 
The state legislature has 35 state senators and 65 state representatives.  The U.S. Census is conducted every ten years, and afterward state legislative districts are redrawn to have nearly equal populations.  Since voters approved its creation in 1974, the Colorado Reapportionment Commission (reapportionment commission) has convened after each U.S. Census to draw new state legislative district maps.  The reapportionment commission consisted of 11 members appointed by legislative leaders, the Governor, and the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.  Up to 6 of the 11 members were permitted under law to be affiliated with the same political party.  The state legislature provided the reapportionment commission with nonpartisan staff support.  The reapportionment commission was required to draft preliminary maps for state senate and house districts and hold public hearings on the maps throughout the state.  Its final maps must had to have the support of a simple majority of commissioners, and they were submitted to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.  In 2018, Amendment Z replaced the reapportionment commission with the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission, which is charged with drawing the state’s legislative districts.
 

Commissioner Selection Process

 
Each commission must have 12 members, 4 from the state's largest political party, which is currently the Democratic Party, 4 from the state's second largest political party, which is currently the Republican Party, and 4 who are not affiliated with any political party.  Each commission must include at least one member residing in each current congressional district and at least one member from the Western Slope.  Each commission must, to the extent possible, reflect Colorado's racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity.  The members of the commissions are appointed from a pool of applicants as described below.  The law also addresses how to remove a commissioner and fill a vacancy. 
 
Phase One.  Individuals apply using online application process.
 
Phase Two.  Nonpartisan staff review of applications for the initial applicant pool.
 
Phase Three.  The judicial panel randomly selects 300 Democrats, 300 Republicans, and 450 unaffiliated voters to establish a selection pool of 1,050 people.
 
Phase Four.  The judicial panel reviews applications and narrows the pool down to 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans, and 50 unaffiliated voters to establish a pool of 150 people.
 
Phase Five.  The judicial panel randomly selects 6 commissioners (2 Democrats, 2 Republicans, and 2 unaffiliated voters) from the 150-person pool. 
 
Phase Six.  4 legislative leaders select 10 applicants each from the initial applicant pool and submit them to the judicial panel.
 
Phase Seven.  The judicial panel selects 4 commissioners, 1 from each of the legislative leaders’ pools.
 
Phase Eight.  The judicial panel randomly selects 2 commissioners from the original pool of 450 randomly selected unaffiliated voters.   
 
 

Criteria for Drawing Legislative Districts 

 
Districts must:
 
  • Have equal population, as required by the U.S. Constitution, with a population deviation of no more than 5% between the most populous and the least populous district in each chamber;
  • Be composed of contiguous geographic areas;
  • Comply with the federal "Voting Rights Act of 1965," as amended;
  • Preserve whole communities of interest and whole political subdivisions, such as counties, cities, and towns; however, a division of a county, city, city and county, or town is permitted where a community of interest's legislative issues are more essential to the fair and effective representation of residents of the district. When the commission divides a county, city, city and county, or town, it shall minimize the number of divisions of that county, city, city and county, or town;
  • Be as compact as is reasonably possible; and
  • Maximize the number of politically competitive districts.
 
Districts cannot be drawn for the purpose of:
 
  • Protecting incumbents in or declared candidates for the Colorado General Assembly or any political party; or
  • Denying or abridging the right of any citizen to vote on account of that person's race or membership in a language minority group, including diluting the impact of that racial or language minority group's electoral influence.
 

Commission Operations

 
  • The commission is responsible for adopting rules to govern its administration and operation.
  • The commissioners are subject to open meeting laws.  
  • Staff for the commission must be assigned from nonpartisan legislative staff agencies. 
  • Commissioners are prohibited from communicating with nonpartisan legislative staff about any maps outside of a public meeting or hearing, and staff are prohibited from communicating with outside parties concerning the development of a redistricting map.  
  • Any commissioner who participates in prohibited communication must be removed from the commission.  
  • Any person who receives compensation for advocating to the commission, one or more commissioners, or staff is considered a lobbyist and must disclose his or her compensation and its source to the Secretary of State for publication.
 

Voting Requirements

 
  • A simple majority of the appointed commissioners may approve rules and procedural decisions. 
  • The election of the commission's chair and vice-chair requires the affirmative vote of at least 8 of the 12 commissioners, including at least one unaffiliated commissioner. 
  • Removal of any commissioner requires the affirmative vote of at least 8 of the 12 commissioners, including at least 2 unaffiliated commissioners. 
  • Adoption of the final plan for submission to the Colorado Supreme Court and the adoption of a revised plan after a plan is returned to the commission from the Colorado Supreme Court requires the affirmative vote of at least 8 of the 12 commissioners, including at least 2 unaffiliated commissioners. 
  • The commission cannot vote upon a final plan until at least 72 hours after it has been proposed to the commission in a public meeting or at least 72 hours after it has been amended by the commission in a public meeting, whichever occurs later; except that commissioners may unanimously waive the 72 hour requirement.
 
 

Map Consideration and Public Involvement

 
      Preliminary Map

  • Nonpartisan commission staff creates a preliminary redistricting map, but can consider public comments while developing the map.  
  • Members of the public may also present proposed redistricting maps and written comments for the commission's consideration.  
  • The commission must hold at least 3 public hearings in each current congressional district before approving a redistricting map, for a minimum of 21 public hearings throughout the state.  
  • At least 10 commissioners must attend each hearing, either in person or electronically.  
  • Commission hearings must be broadcast online.
  • The commission website will allow a way for Colorado residents to submit maps or written comments.  
  • All written comments pertaining to redistricting will be published on the website.  
 
      Final Maps

  • After the commission holds its hearings on the preliminary map, staff must prepare additional maps.  
  • The commission can adopt standards and guidelines for staff to follow when developing staff maps.  
  • Any commissioner can request at a public hearing that staff prepare additional maps or amendments to maps.  
  • The commission can adopt a final map at any time after the presentation of the first staff map.
  • The commission must adopt a final map and submit it to the Colorado Supreme Court for review.  
  • At least 8 of the 12 commissioners, including at least 2 unaffiliated commissioners, must approve the final map, and the map must be made public before the commission votes on it.  
  • If the commission fails to submit a final map, a staff map must be submitted, without amendments, to the Colorado Supreme Court for judicial review.  
 
      Supreme Court Approval of Maps
 
  • The Colorado Supreme Court must approve the final map unless the court finds that the commission abused its discretion in applying or failing to apply required criteria, in which case the court must return it to the commission.  
  • If returned, the commission has 12 days to hold a hearing and submit a revised map to the Colorado Supreme Court.  If the commission fails to submit a revised map, nonpartisan staff have an additional three days to submit a revised map.  
  • The Colorado Supreme Court must approve the legislative redistricting map by December 29, 2021.
  • The Colorado Supreme Court must order that the approved legislative maps be filed with the Secretary of State by December 29, 2021.