The Colorado Supreme Court approved Monday a congressional redistricting plan drawn by the state’s new Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission, despite objections that the new map dilutes Hispanic voting power.
Redistricting power had been held by the state General Assembly, but during three of the last four redistricting cycles, the Assembly was unable to come to a decision on a new map, which led to the creation of the independent Commission in 2018. Made up of twelve ordinary voters appointed by a three-member panel of retired judges, the Commission’s mandate is to create a map that is as equal as possible population-wise between districts, preserves whole communities as much as possible, and complies with the Voting Rights Act. The final map must then be submitted to the state supreme court for review and approval.
In its standard of review, it is not up to the court to decide whether or not the Commission chose the best or perfect option, only that the map “fell within the range of reasonable options” the Commission could have chosen. Under that standard, Justice Monica Marquez wrote, the Commission met its statutory duty. “For the first time, the state’s congressional district map is not the product of politics or litigation; it is instead the product of public input, transparent deliberation, and compromise among twelve ordinary voters representing the diversity of our state,” she concluded.
Several civil rights groups had opposed the new map, arguing that the new district lines impermissibly diluted Hispanic voters’ electoral influence. They argued that the map groups Hispanic voters with white voters in a way that could prevent the election of the Hispanic voters’ preferred candidate. The court found, however, that the Commission did not abuse its discretion in crafting the map and that it complied with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
The map preserves the current 4-3 split among Democratic and Republican representatives while creating a new eighth district north of Denver that is expected to be a highly competitive race, with the district equally split between the parties.