by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel
Colorado’s congressional redistricting commission has released its new draft map showing the likely district lines for the next decade. The commission and its staff worked for several months on the map, and lots of news stories quote various political pundits, mostly praising the commission’s work — juggling the many different recommendations to come up with a compromise. All the praising pundits live on the Front Range.
Many on the Western Slope and Eastern Plains are upset about the new plan, because it doesn’t just ignore — it unapologetically tramples — the interests of rural Colorado. The new map splits the Western Slope into two different districts, one dominated by Pueblo, and the other by Boulder. As I pointed out in this space several weeks ago, such a split virtually guarantees representation in Congress by two Front Range congressmen for the next decade. That isn’t idle speculation. It is what happened during the entire decade of the 1970s when the West Slope was split in substantially the same way.
However, since 1982, Grand Junction has shared a district with the entire region of which it is the economic and cultural center, as well as with the district’s largest city, Pueblo. Votes in Pueblo and its region are roughly balanced against those of Mesa, Delta, Montrose, La Plata, Montezuma, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Routt, and several others with a common interest in protecting Western Slope water. That balance is delicate, and both sides have learned to live amicably with it. In the newly proposed district, Grand Junction would remain in that uncomfortable juxtaposition with Pueblo. But without the support of the entire Western Slope north of I-70 and all the counties to the east, Pueblo would dominate.