Our view: A House district divided: The final insult
December 20, 2011
The third time was not a charm for Grand County in this fall’s legislative reapportionment “sweepstakes,” an appropriate term in light of the ultimately arbitrary outcome of the process.
After months of testimony and consideration of two previous legislative district iterations, the Colorado Supreme Court this week ordered adoption of a Colorado House district map that relegates Grand County to what in all likelihood will be a decade of “representation” in the Colorado House by a Democratic lawmaker from Boulder County.
Throwing darts blindfolded at a map of Colorado might have produced better results for those of us in the new House District 13 who call this side of the Continental Divide home.
Imagine a House district with just 70,000-odd people in it that encompasses parts of both downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall and downtown Kremmling’s Park Avenue. On second thought, don’t imagine it: Grand County will have a seat in the peanut gallery to witness the follies.
From a Grand County perspective, the new district fails to meet just about every constitutional test imaginable:
• Communities of interest: Grand County has about as much in common with metropolitan Boulder as Attila the Hun and Ghandi do.
• Geographic compactness: It’s a long way – and not just physically – from Kremmling to Boulder. It’s an even longer way from the far corners of Jackson County, which is also included in the district, to Boulder. In fact, in the winter, the shortest from Jackson County often entails a drive through Wyoming.
• Keeping counties intact: This was the primary criteria cited by the court for rejecting the previous map, which put Grand in a Summit-Eagle configuration. Irony: Boulder County remains split in this configuration.
All of which was duly noted in Grand County’s objection to the court to reconsider this district, and all for naught. In fact, one could almost argue that Grand County (in general terms, not the official political subdivision) was punished for what one reapportionment committee staffer noted was being among the most outspoken counties during this process.
Consider: In terms of political competitiveness, which is not a constitutional factor, this district is decidedly skewed toward Democrats. According to 2010 data, 44 percent of voters in the new District 13 were registered Democrats, 23 percent Republicans, and 32 percent unaffiliated. Contrast that with November figures from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office about active Grand County voters: 48 percent Republican, 23 percent Democrat and 28 percent unaffiliated.
Pretty much a slap in the face to Grand County’s prevailing political makeup.
Combined with the fact that about 60 percent of the voters in the new district reside in Boulder County, including many within the Boulder city limits, and it’s pretty obvious where the District 13 representative is likely to live and what their party affiliation will be.
Perhaps most lamentable of all, however, is the fact that when push comes to shove in the Statehouse, Front Range lawmakers are far more prone to vote for Front Range interests on a host of issues, from funding road projects to natural-resource issues. All of which leaves Grand County effectively without representation in the Colorado House for the next decade.
To put it indelicately, during this final round of the reapportionment sweepstakes, Front Range Democrats got the gold mine, Grand and Jackson counties got the shaft.