Carving Up Colorado
The State of Redistricting
By Trish Gilbert, Saguache County Clerk & Recorder
Generally: The “one person, one vote” principle generally requires legislative districts at most levels of government to contain roughly equal populations. Since population growth occurs unevenly over time and by location, existing federal, state and local legislative districts must be reviewed at least every ten years, to establish new district boundaries based on current population data as reflected in the most recent federal decennial census. This process is known as “redistricting.”
State‐level redistricting: Redistricting congressional and state legislative districts occurs at the state level.
Prior process: In prior years, the Colorado General Assembly reviewed and established new boundaries for Colorado’s congressional and state legislative districts, based on population data gathered by the United States Census Bureau in the most recent census.
Current process: In 2018, Colorado voters passed Amendments Y and Z, vesting authority for redistricting congressional and state legislative districts in two new independent commissions, thus effectively removing the General Assembly’s authority over redistricting congressional and legislative districts.
Commissioner Districts: Section 30‐10‐306(4), C.R.S., requires boards of county commissioners, after each federal census, to establish, revise or alter commissioner districts “to assure that such districts shall be as nearly equal in population as possible based on such census,” no later than September 30th of the year following the census.
The board of county commissioners must convene a public hearing on the proposed commissioner district boundaries no less than 30 days before adopting a board resolution to change the commissioner district boundaries. Section 30‐10‐306(5), C.R.S.
Although section 30‐10‐306(5), C.R.S. requires commissioner districts to be “as nearly equal in population as possible,” no Colorado statute specifies exactly what that means in the context of county commissioner districts. As a result, most counties use the maximum 5% district population variance that applies to state legislative districts under article V, §48.1(a) of the Colorado Constitution.
Precincts: The Uniform Election Code requires counties to establish voting precincts no later than 29 days before Precinct Caucus Day. Section 1‐5‐103(1), C.R.S. In even‐numbered, gubernatorial election years, Precinct Caucus Day is the first Tuesday in March. Section 1‐3‐102(1)(a)(I), C.R.S. In 2022, therefore, Precinct Caucus Day is Tuesday, March 1, 2022, and the 29‐day deadline for finalizing precinct boundaries is Monday, January 31, 2022.
Under Colorado law, precincts are based on active voter counts rather than raw population. Section 1‐5‐101(2) and (3) establish different maximum active voter counts per precinct, depending on whether the county uses “paper ballots” or an “electronic or electromechanical voting system.” In this context, a county that manually tabulates or hand counts ballots uses “paper ballots,” while counties that tabulate ballots with either the Clear Ballot or Dominion systems use an “electromechanical voting system.”
In counties that hand count ballots, the clerk and recorder must establish at least one precinct for every 600 active eligible electors, or up to 750 active electors per precinct with approval of the board of county commissioners. Section 1‐5‐101(2), C.R.S.
In counties using the Clear Ballot or Dominion voting systems, the clerk and recorder must establish at least one precinct for every 1500 active voters, or up to 2000 active voters per precinct with the approval of the Board of County Commissioners. Section 1‐5‐101(3), C.R.S.
Trish Gilbert is The Saguache County Clerk and Recorder. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 719-655-2512 or by mail at Saguache County Clerk & Recorder, PO Box 176, 501 4th Street, Saguache CO 81149.