Summit County gets split in latest congressional redistricting map
Community leaders disagree on whether the new proposal is moving in the right direction, but they all said dividing the county is not in residents’ best interest
A new proposal from the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission was released Friday, Sept. 3, putting Summit County residents into an interesting position with many staying in their current spot in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District while others would be looped into the 7th Congressional District.
Colorado is growing, and its pool of congressional delegates has to grow to keep up. The state will add a new congressional seat next year due to population gains, meaning the redistricting commission, established by voters in 2018, is getting a crack at redrawing the map for the first time.
But some Summit County residents are scratching their heads at the latest proposal.
The first preliminary map was released in June and placed Summit County in the 3rd Congressional District represented by Republican Lauren Boebert.
In a subsequent public hearing, community members voiced split opinions on where they’d like to ultimately see the county fall. Under the newest proposal, Summit residents are literally split between the 2nd Congressional District, currently represented by Democrat Joe Neguse, and the 7th Congressional District currently represented by Democrat Ed Perlmutter.
Under the proposed map, Boebert’s home in Garfield County would fall into Neguse’s territory under the new alignment, meaning the two could be pitted against each other in the upcoming election. But the U.S. Constitution requires a representative to live only in the state they represent and not necessarily the same district, meaning she could theoretically run again in the proposed 3rd Congressional District.
According to an interactive map available on the redistricting commissions’ website, the dividing line appears to place most of Summit County’s residents into the 2nd Congressional District, including Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne, Dillon and Heeney, while those in Blue River, Montezuma and the rest of the eastern part of the county would fall into the 7th Congressional District.
Some say the newest proposal is a step in the wrong direction.
“The first map crafted districts that kept the Front Range communities of interest together,” said Summit County Republicans Chairman Mike Tabb. “… I truly am more interested in a community of interest, whether it’s water issues, forest management, transportation issues. I don’t have anything in common with Boulder County.”
To Tabb’s point, redistricting laws require that the commission’s plan “preserve whole communities of interest” when reasonably possible, meaning keeping areas together that share substantial public policy concerns with regard to federal legislative action around things like industry, education, employment, public health and numerous others.
Tabb said he felt the commission painted itself into a corner in trying to meet the population requirements — trying to get as close to 721,714 residents per district as possible — while sacrificing some of those communities of interest. He said he’d like to see the map return to something closer to the first draft.
Other community leaders voiced that the latest map was a positive step. Frisco Mayor Hunter Mortensen said the new proposal was more balanced.
“You look at the fact that our economy in Summit County is based on what we all do on federal land, and looking at the new congressional district two as it’s proposed, it adds in a very similar, focused user group on the federal land policy and public lands,” Mortensen said. “… That helps to tie us to the Front Range corridor with Boulder County. That is the user group that is recreating up here these days.”
Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said he was glad the county still had a strong stake in the Interstate 70 mountain corridor, which runs from Denver through Jefferson and Clear Creek counties (both of which would be moved to the 7th Congressional District under the proposal) before arriving in Summit.
“I think our relationship to the I-70 corridor is very important for everything we do: transportation, shipping, all those sorts of things,” Mamula said. “… That is really our lifeline economically, and I think it’s important we keep some kind of relationship there.”
But regardless of how community leaders feel about getting looped in with the Front Range or Western Slope, everyone appears to agree that the proposed division within the county is far from ideal.
“I’m not sure that really gives us fair and equal representation,” Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said. “For such a small piece of Summit County to be in a congressional district, I fear those folks in Summit County will get lost in that district. … What we’ll have to do in Summit County is advocate to both congressional representatives on all the projects that are important to Summit County and all the policies that are important to Summit County.”
“Splitting Summit County is in nobody’s interest,” Tabb added. “We can’t have a legitimate conversation on countywide issues. I would never support that.”
The congressional redistricting commission will continue to collect feedback on the proposal and could release a more refined map over the coming month, but a final draft has to be completed by Oct. 1. The Colorado Supreme Court must approve the plans by Dec. 15 for congressional redistricting and Dec. 29 for legislative redistricting.
The next draft of the redrawn state legislative districts is expected to go public Monday, Sept. 13, according to the redistricting commissions’ website. Community members can still submit public comment at Redistricting.Colorado.gov, as well.
The 2022 elections for the U.S. House of Representatives and Colorado General Assembly will be held in the newly drawn districts.
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