Opinion | Linda Harmon: It’s only just begun

Thanks to the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission, Summit County voters may have a new representative in the U.S. House in 2022. Most likely, we will not be in the 2nd Congressional District represented by Democrat Joe Neguse from Boulder. Horror of horrors, our new representative could be Lauren Boebert, a QAnon Republican from the 3rd Congressional District.

How did this happen? Redistricting happens every 10 years if a state has a shift in population. When a state’s population grows enough, a U.S. congressional seat is added to ensure residents are properly represented in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. As many of you know, Colorado has grown enough to add a new congressional district, which is forcing realignment of current districts to accommodate the growth or decrease of population in each county. This is normally done by the state legislature.

However, Colorado’s redistricting process is unique. Colorado is one of the first states in the country to approach redistricting by using an unelected-citizen commission. Previously, Colorado used the same process as other states when adding or reducing congressional seats. If your political party had control of the Legislature at the time of redistricting it was wonderful, but there were frequent calls of gerrymandering on both sides of the aisle. Hoping to eliminate gerrymandering, Colorado voters passed Amendment Y in 2018. This new law transferred the power to redraw the congressional districts from the Colorado Legislature to a newly created Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission.

Is this good news or bad news for Democrats in Summit County? Well, it is what it is! Per the Colorado redistricting website, along with having an independent commission the law requires that districts be contiguous and, along with many other requirements, members cannot protect incumbents, declared candidates or align with any political party.

Ian Silverii, a redistricting expert who worked on the process in 2011 and is currently working on the 2021 redistricting, said, “members of the commission are required by the Colorado Constitution to adhere to the requirements specified by the law when deciding how to draw the congressional districts. Political party interests cannot influence them.”

During the next year, there will be community meetings for the commission to hear feedback from residents about the proposed plan. On Saturday, July 31, Summit County residents can participate in a hearing at the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco. Many experts, including Silverii, believe these community input meetings will result in the proposed redistricting map looking much different by next year. Unfortunately, Summit County voters — terrified by the thought of a gun carrying, climate change denying, self-identified QAnon supporter representing them in the United States Congress — need to accept the fact that districts must be contiguous. If you look at the proposed redistricting map, Summit County sits in a location where it can’t easily be moved out of the 3rd Congressional District, even if the voters don’t agree with the representative’s politics.

Perhaps the smarter argument would be to convince the commission to move the more conservative-leaning, agricultural Fremont County to the 4th District and put the liberal-leaning, tourist county of Saguache in the 3rd district.

Patti McLaughlin, chair of the Summit Democrats, recently said, “Summit relies on tourism, not agriculture. I believe the focus for the 31st is to elevate drawing districts that better reflect communities of interest.”

In the end, Summit County Democrats may do the entire country a favor by contributing to unseating one of only two QAnon supporters in Congress. Summit County voters alone could change this situation. According to the registration numbers provided by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the new 3rd Congressional District by a little over 10,000 voters, and unaffiliated voters outnumber Republicans by over 10,000 votes. With Summit County’s 6,600 registered Democrats and over 10,900 registered unaffiliated voters, a well-developed voter registration drive and a strong candidate like Kerry Donovan, the Democrats can win this seat. Donovan is a Colorado native and a rancher who currently represents Vail in the Colorado Senate. Best of all, she is not part of a far-right conspiracy theory cult, and she is a better representative for our county!


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.