This decade’s redistricting process includes ample opportunities for Coloradans from across the state to help determine how our communities will be represented in the state legislature and Congress for the next ten years.
Every ten years, states redraw their congressional and state legislative districts based on updated information from the U.S. Census Bureau. When done fairly, redistricting updates the boundaries of districts in line with population changes to better represent the people living in the state. When redistricting is done unfairly, politicians can manipulate the maps to benefit their own party through a process known as gerrymandering. All too often, gerrymandering has been used to dilute the influence of voters of color and silence their voices in the political process.
In 2018, Coloradans chose to take the redistricting process out of the hands of politicians by overwhelmingly passing Amendments Y and Z. The amendments established 12-member independent redistricting commissions — one for state legislative districts and one for congressional districts — with the goal of taking politics and partisanship out of redistricting, and increasing transparency of Colorado’s redistricting process.
The passage of Amendments Y and Z was an important step towards achieving fair maps, but establishing independent commissions is not enough to ensure maps are drawn to fairly represent Colorado’s diverse communities.
It’s critical that Coloradans make their voices heard, especially now by submitting public comments that will be used in the development of proposed maps this summer.
Colorado’s Independent Congressional and Legislative Redistricting commissions have been selected and convened and, while the release of redistricting data from the U.S. Census Bureau has been delayed until the end of September, both commissions are holding regular meetings and actively soliciting input. In other words, they want to hear from you about your community. The time is now to get involved in Colorado’s redistricting process.
Public engagement in this process will ultimately make the maps better and more representative of all Coloradans. This is particularly important for communities of interest. Communities of interest can be made up of various groups with a common set of policy concerns. Amendments Y & Z specifically identify racial, ethnic and language minority groups, as communities of interest. Given Colorado’s significant growth over the past decade — particularly among the Latino community which grew by nearly 30% between 2007 and 2018 — it’s important to ensure that the redistricting commissions adequately consider communities of interest as they develop maps.
I work for an organization called All On The Line; our mission is to achieve fair maps in Colorado and across the country. We believe that our democracy is stronger when everyone is able to participate, and when voters get to choose their politicians — not the other way around.
This month, we’re hosting a virtual training session on how Coloradans can participate in the redistricting process and how to submit effective written testimony to the state legislative and congressional redistricting commissions in order to achieve fair districts.
Fair districts ensure that Coloradans, including communities of interest, are able to elect representatives of their preference, instead of having their influence diluted and voices silenced. Fair districts mean that elected officials will have more of an incentive to listen to and respond to their constituents.
It’s up to all of us to make sure our voices are heard in this process so that Colorado can have fair maps, especially given the recent announcement from the Census Bureau that Colorado will gain an additional congressional seat. Passing Amendments Y & Z in 2018 was an important step forward, but Coloradans — and particularly Colorado’s growing Latino community — need to speak up now while the districts are being drawn, to ensure meaningful and fair representation for the next decade.
Marco Dorado is the Colorado state director for All On The Line.
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