In 2018, the voters of Colorado spoke loud and clear when they overwhelmingly passed Amendments Y & Z. These amendments implemented the most aggressive reforms in the nation to end gerrymandering: instead of politicians redrawing congressional and legislative districts to protect the interests of political parties and incumbents, a group of citizens is charged with this task. The premise is simple: voters should pick their politicians, instead of politicians picking their voters.
The first step in this process is complete. The commissions have published “preliminary” maps. Next, the Commissions (one commission is responsible for congressional redistricting and a second commission is responsible for legislative redistricting) will be holding public meetings around the state. For each of the public meetings, people are invited to join via a video conference or in person.
Rural Colorado, this is the time to speak up and be a voice for your community.
The districts that have been drawn are a starting point and the commissions can only do a good job adjusting districts that represent rural Colorado if we speak up. Whether you are involved with politics or not, this is important to rural Southern and Southeastern Colorado. As I have worked to promote redistricting awareness in southeast and southern Colorado, I continually hear, “rural Colorado is being overpowered by Denver and the metro area.” I relate to that sentiment.
This is not the time to forfeit our voice to the urban areas to our north. Give credit where it is due: the Congressional Redistricting Commission recognized the voice of rural Colorado drawing two rural districts (out of eight total), giving rural Colorado a strong voice in the United States House of Representatives.
Come to the meeting, tell the redistricting commissions that rural Colorado deserves representation without being diluted by the metro area. Share with them the communities of interest for state redistricting and what is important for your community. Finally, if you are unable to attend a meeting in person or via video conference, go to the website and submit a public comment. The website is redistricting.colorado.gov, there you will find maps, public meeting information and, most importantly, a form to submit your comment.
Upcoming hearings by both commissions will jointly take place in Southern Colorado as follows: August 6 in both Trinidad and Alamosa; August 20 in both Woodland Park and Pueblo; August 21 in Canon City.
Michelle Gardner is a Consultant for the Colorado Neighborhood Coalition (CNC) which is self described as an organization “committed to promoting the development of fair congressional and legislative maps in Colorado in 2021.”, Michelle has been working on promoting community involvement with redistricting for the past year. She grew up in agriculture and continues to work in agriculture in the Arkansas Valley. She understands the importance of rural representation and community involvement so that rural Colorado has a voice.