US census delays threaten to upend the new redistricting process in Colorado

Delay by United States Census Bureau In sharing detailed demographic data, new redistricting in Colorado threatens to be upside down before the 2022 election, injecting uncertainty into a politically charged mission that will affect the state’s political landscape over the next decade.

Due to the slowdown related to COVID-19, the Trump administration’s efforts have failed Add a question about nationality For the 2020 Census, and Anomalous dataIn fact, the Census Bureau is not expected to provide demographics to Colorado until sometime this summer. The data was supposed to be by March 31 – at the latest.

The delay means that the two new independent commissions are unlikely to have enough time to redraw the legislative and congressional maps in Colorado in time to meet the September deadlines set out in the state constitution when voters passed Amendments Y and Z in 2018. The amendments were sent to voters by the commission. Legislative and completely reformed the Colorado delineation method.

If the deadlines are not met, the new non-partisan legislature will draw the new maps instead, greatly discouraging the intention of Amendments Y and Z and the bipartisan agreement that led to their passage. The amendments aim to remove the political maneuvering around the once-in-a-decade redistricting of districts, and to give the public more say in the task.

There was not only bipartisan support, but unanimous support among 100 legislators (for the new process). Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert told Parker the Republican, “Y and Z have both gone by wide margins.” “It is a shame that we are in this situation.”

More: The negotiations that led to Amendments Y and Z, to end one of Colorado’s longest running political wrangling

Top lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly are now scrambling to respond and save the new redistricting process. The stakes are high, with Colorado expected to add an eighth seat in Congress in 2022 due to population growth and party power at the state headquarters that is likely to be suspended.

The new problems in the redistricting process come after state officials initially struggled to get enough applicants to join legislative and congressional mapping committees. There were also concerns that not enough applicants from underrepresented groups would seek to serve on committees, whose members are chosen by judges in the coming weeks.

Colorado isn’t the only state where redistricting plans are in trouble because of Census Bureau delays. The Reports of the National Conference of the State’s legislative bodies New Jersey and Virginia were planning to redraw their legislative districts ahead of elections this year. Meanwhile, the states of California, Missouri, Maine, Ohio, South Dakota and Washington have deadlines for redistricting in the coming months before the 2022 election, similar to Colorado.

Districts of Congress in Colorado. (note)

Texas Legislature They may have to be called into a private session Because of the slowdown by the Census Bureau.

Colorado nonpartisan redistricting committee employees informed senior legislative leaders Monday about their reason for existence Delay It is very problematic.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Feinberg, a Democrat from Boulder, said: “We’ve known for some time now that the timeline will be in question because of the census.” “The effect is more evident now.”

Officials said the detailed numbers of residents are expected to arrive by March 31, but data now may not arrive until July 31 – if not later.

“The Census Bureau has somehow acknowledged that they will not be able to meet this deadline,” Jerry Barry, a nonpartisan employee with the Legislative Legal Services office, told senior lawmakers Monday. “We heard that it will be sometime this fall.”

Barry recommended that Democrats and Republicans rush to draft a bill to delay the mapping deadlines – now set for 9/11. 1 for congressional districts and September. Number 15 for Legislation – Then ask the Colorado Supreme Court to consider whether state legislators can pass a measure that changes constitutional deadlines.

By its nature, the legislature does not have the power to change a state constitution by passing a bill. That’s why lawmakers would have to ask the state Supreme Court, given the extenuating circumstances, that the amendments are okay.

“The only way the legislature has, because we do not have the authority to amend the constitution and there is no time to refer a question to the electorate, (is to seek) an opinion,” Holbert said.

Due to the pandemic, the Colorado Supreme Court allowed the legislature last year to override its constitutional requirement to meet for 120 consecutive days. Legislature attorneys argue that the request to amend the redistricting deadlines is the same.

(The Colorado Supreme Court is required to review the final maps and approve or reject them by the end of 2021 and pass them on to the office of the Colorado Secretary of State.)

Holbert said lawmakers may have expected delays in reporting census data when formulating the Y and Z adjustments and provided some flexibility over deadlines. But at this point, the only thing that needs to be done is to find a way to respond. And his Democratic colleagues agree.

“We’re just where we are,” House Speaker Alec Garnett told Democrat Denver. So let’s figure out a way forward.

It is unclear how long the legislature will try to delay the deadlines for mapping. If it’s a month or two, Feinberg said, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Colorado House Chambers on the first day of the Extraordinary Colorado Legislative Session on November 30, 2020 (Andy Colwell, exclusive for The Colorado Sun)

However, such an extension would give candidates less time to decide which races to run in, and would likely create a more intense electoral cycle. Senior politicians are watching closely for the location of Colorado’s eighth congressional district. The new map is likely to have ripple effects across the political landscape.

Fenberg tries to find the silver lining. “I don’t think it’s the end of the world,” he said of a possible delay. “It might be, frankly, a positive thing.”

Fenberg notes that the pandemic will make it difficult for independent redistricting committees to meet and obtain statewide input because personal gatherings remain upset.

“There are many reasons why now is not the right time to start the redistricting process,” said Veinberg.

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The result for proponents of redistricting changes is that even with delay, the process will not be in the hands of the legislature as was the case before Amendments Y and Z. Even if independent committees cannot draw maps, non-partisan legislation will be staffed, which means The impact of party politics will still be limited.

The downside is that it will be difficult to request general input and to consider it the way the modifications Y and Z envisioned.

“It might not look exactly what we had planned when we wrote Y and Z, but there are still some big changes,” Fenberg said.


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