County splits don’t meet legal standards
SUMMIT COUNTY — The Colorado Supreme Court has sent the state’s reapportionment plan back to a bipartisan commission for more tweaking before the Dec. 6 deadline. Read the court’s order here.
The court ruled that the plan “is not sufficiently attentive to county boundaries” to meet legal requirements, and that the reapportionment commission did not try hard enough to develop a “less drastic alternative,” when it comes to dividing counties.
Numerous Front Range jurisdiction challenged the plan, complaining that the map went too far in dividing counties, when state law requires that they remain intact within a political district when possible.
The state is redrawing Colorado House and Senate districts based on 2010 census data. Objections to the plan were raised with regard to House districts 1, 14-21, 25, 38, 56, 47, 58, 59 and 63-65.
The new boundaries of Senate districts 9-12, 16, 26, 31 and 32 were also challenged.
The challenges to the House plan were filed by Arapahoe County; Douglas County; various officials and citizens of Elbert, El Paso, and Yuma counties; Jefferson County; Las Animas County; Weld County; Town of Superior; Southwest Colorado Citizens for a Constitutional Map and Club 20; and Colorado Citizens for Fair Representation.
Objections to the Senate plan on this ground were filed by Arapahoe County; Douglas County; Town of Superior; and CCFR. The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners and the Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder both objected to the manner in which their respective counties were divided.
The State Constitution requires that counties be kept whole except when necessary to meet equal population requirements.
From the court ruling:
“The various objections to the Adopted Plan revolve around a common theme: namely, that the Adopted Plan violates section because it is not sufficiently attentive to county boundaries, and because it failed to minimize city splits in Colorado Springs.
Changes in demographic patterns in rapidly growing Front Range communities — especially the growth of Latino populations — prompted the commission to split Arapahoe and Jefferson counties. The court commented:
“However, the Commission’s reliance on the need to comply with the Voting Rights Act to justify dividing Arapahoe and Jefferson counties cannot trump section 47(2) on the record before us, where the Commission conceded in its briefing and at oral argument that it lacked information from which its expert could opine on any potential section 2 violation in Aurora.
“Consequently, this justification for county splits in Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties is inadequate. This is particularly true where the record indicates that the Commission had before it alternative plans that avoided the county boundary splits challenged here while still preserving these communities of interest through Hispanic-majority and minority-influence districts.”