Opinion | Susan Knopf: The redistricting roadshow | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Susan Knopf: The redistricting roadshow

The redistricting roadshow is coming to Breckenridge on July 10, says Jess Shipley, Colorado Redistricting Commission staff director. Clear your calendar, and everybody buckle up. It could be a bumpy ride.

What’s at stake? Why should you care?

I don’t know about you, but I really like being represented by Julie McCluskie in the state House and Joe Neguse in the U.S. House of Representatives. Their seats, as well as that of state Sen. Bob Rankin, will be in play when the new lines are drawn. Rankin told me this is his last term, so that seat will likely feature a new face.

For the record, this is the maiden voyage for the two new redistricting commissions, authorized by constitutional Amendments Y and Z passed by voters in November 2018. Good thing, too. According to Shipley, the state Legislature was unable to agree on redistricting lines in 2011, and the court decided for us.

The 2020 census revealed we’ll get a new 8th Congressional District due to our increase in population. It’s not as easy as just adding an eighth district. Shipley says, “We’re starting from scratch.” She says the districts might be numbered differently or quite similarly. That has yet to be determined.

The good news is you have an opportunity to put in your two cents. According to The Colorado Sun, the commission drawing new congressional districts is taking public comments through June 13, and the legislative commission is taking comments through June 18. Then there will be a public comment period when the preliminary maps are presented. The July 10 roadshow will be an opportunity for Summit County to check out the maps.

You can watch and listen to commission meetings. Check out the online schedule and tune in. The new district lines will determine whether your voice is heard. If you miss a meeting, you can listen to the recording.

Both redistricting commissions are required to:

  • Create districts of equal population, which are politically competitive
  • Comprise contiguous geographic areas
  • Preserve whole communities of interest and whole political subdivisions, such as counties, cities and towns

They are also precluded from protecting incumbent seats. That would be good news, if I didn’t like my incumbents so much!

McCluskie texted me she “hope(s) everyone will take a moment to weigh in on the redistricting process.”

”Redistricting is a critically important process for the future of our democracy,“ she wrote. ”Now is the chance for local elected leaders and other community members to share their perspectives on Summit County’s membership in CD2 or CD3, and the boundaries of state districts.”

Summit County Democratic Party Chair Patricia Mclaughlin wrote in an email, “It is good for democracy when district lines are drawn to be competitive rather than to create safe districts for a political party. When elected officials have to take the views of all of their constituents into consideration rather than just cater to their base, the public is better served. It is time to end gerrymandering.”

The monkey wrench is the lobbyists. According to The Colorado Sun, “Lobbyists are registering to influence the congressional commission and the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission.”

It’s a bit ironic, since the Colorado Supreme Court told lawmakers to stay out of the process. The court is allowing the use of preliminary data. The U.S. census is running late delivering data necessary to draw final district maps. Many fear the delayed census data will thwart the independent redistricting commissions’ efforts to deliver maps on the legally mandated schedule.

Bottom line, we should all be proud of how far we’ve come. McLaughlin wrote, “Kudos to Colorado voters for setting the stage for an independent group of citizens to make these important decisions. I urge the public to stay involved through the comment stage of the process.”

It could be worse. We could live in North Carolina, where a majority of voters are registered Democrats, but their voices are silenced because they’re represented by Republicans thanks to gerrymandering. And those Republicans consistently implement anti-voter legislation.

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