New Colorado voting card spurs ski towns debate at Latina coffee group
DENVER, July 2 (Reuters) – Days after an independent Colorado commission released a map of proposed new congressional districts, a group of about 30 Latina power brokers discussed its implications at a garden rally in historic Park Hill in Denver.
The commission had placed the state’s new 8th Congressional District in the northern suburbs of Denver, a move intended to reflect Colorado’s growing Hispanic community. But Latino professionals chatting over coffee and cake in a “cafécito” feared the plan did not properly represent their community.
The women have pledged to show up in force for 32 public hearings the commission will hold in July and August in what it has dubbed a redistribution “roadshow”.
“We need to make sure that Latinos have a voice in as many districts as possible,” said Polly Baca, who in 1978 became the first Hispanic woman elected to the Colorado State Senate.
As the first state to reveal a first map of its new districts ahead of next year’s high-stakes midterm elections, Colorado is gearing up for one of the nation’s most vigorous debates over redistribution.
In the once-a-decade process, new U.S. census data helps decide how states are redrawing the constituency boundaries that elect lawmakers to the House of Representatives. Mapping decisions can play a role in determining congressional control by consolidating or dispersing voters with similar political views.
In most states, legislatures draw new districts, leaving little room for public input. But in 2018, Colorado became one of 10 states that rely on independent redistribution commissions to reduce partisanship, opening new avenues for public participation.
This change, along with a heightened awareness of how electoral line drawing can alter political advantage, has broadened the review of the preliminary map released in Colorado on June 23.
Voters, advocacy groups and aspiring congressional candidates are weighing on district boundaries, which will change once the state obtains final census data later this year and following comments at the polls. public hearings.
What attracts the most attention are the competitive districts that will affect Republicans’ chances in 2022 to take control of the House from Democrats, who hold a slim 10-seat majority.
“A GREAT BEGINNING”
Colorado’s Hispanic population grew to 24% of the total in 2019, from 21% in 2010, according to state data. Yet Colorado lacks a Hispanic U.S. lawmaker, prompting community leaders to seek greater representation through redistribution.
According to the commission’s plan, the new 8th District, which the state has received due to overall population growth since 2010, would attract many liberal cities north of Denver.
Hispanics would make up 29.9% of the proposed district – “a good start,” said Mike Ferrufino, president of the Colorado Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
But he said the lines should be changed to include more cities that reflect the entire Hispanic community in the region, noting that the heavily Hispanic trading city was only partially included in the district.
In addition to the number of Hispanic voters, Ferrufino and other Hispanic leaders said the overall diversity and attitudes of voters in any district also affected the ability of Hispanic candidates to run for Congress.
Rosemary Rodriguez, co-founder of the 30-year-old Cafecito Gathering, said the group’s newsletter has reached over 800 women and that she plans to use this platform to galvanize Latino participation in the process. redistribution.
Dividing Denver’s progressive electorate evenly between two districts would achieve more diverse representation than keeping it predominantly in one district, as the commission’s preliminary map would, Rodriguez said in last week’s cafecito. .
“Denver can handle the split. His identity is strong, and if that helps more people of color run, that’s a great reason to do so, ”said Rodriguez, who worked to engage hard-to-reach communities in the 2020 census.
Colorado Democratic Party captain Cecelia Espenoza said she plans to run for Congress if Denver is split into two districts. But she was reconsidering after the preliminary map left Denver almost entirely in its one district, which has been represented by Democrat Diana DeGette since 1997.
The state’s new district proposal would push its current 7th district into more conservative counties southwest of Denver, potentially making it more competitive for Republicans.
In Marston, one of the Denver neighborhoods DeGette represents but could end up with a more conservative lawmaker, Monica Ray, 34, a stay-at-home mom, expressed alarm at the prospect.
“We are registered Democrats; we were very satisfied with our representative, ”she said.
Marston teacher Stewart Ratliff, 33, said he would rather vote in the most politically diverse district, however, as an unaffiliated registered voter who has “libertarian values with a conservative twist “.
The proposed changes are also generating buzz hundreds of miles from Denver on the western slope of Colorado.
The commission’s map would consolidate the Republican base in the district represented by Lauren Boebert, a first-term Republican MP closely linked to former President Donald Trump.
Despite the addition of several liberal towns, including Vail, the hometown of Boebert’s main Democratic challenger so far, the map adds larger conservative areas to the Boebert district, such as Canon City, bolstering its Republican electorate in the ‘together.
“I’m going to win!” Boebert said, when asked about her reaction to the new map on Wednesday as she attended a speech by Trump near an unfinished section of the US-Mexico border wall in Texas.
Sara Blackhurst, chair of Action 22, a regional advocacy organization representing counties in southern Colorado, praised the commission’s decision not to let urban areas dilute Colorado’s two main rural districts: the region of Colorado. Western Slope and the Eastern State Plains.
But some residents of the eclectic mountain town of Nederland, where a pride flag hangs on the town hall, were shocked at the thought of being moved from a deeply democratic neighborhood to Boebert.
Rick Merrill, 69, a retired professional dancer who has said he generally votes for Democrats, has vowed to do everything possible to avoid this scenario.
“It is completely unfair for a community like Nederland because our vote would be totally overturned,” he said.
Reporting by Julia Harte Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman
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