Garfield County commissioners worry Latino vote will be split in state Senate redistricting
A proposed new Colorado Senate district map that splits Garfield County in two would also dilute the county’s Latino voice when it comes to state legislative issues, county commissioners contend.
The commissioners are making one last attempt to convince Colorado’s Legislative Redistricting Commission to keep the county whole in drawing new state Senate districts.
One concern has to do with keeping not only the county in general, but its Latino voters, whole.
“Garfield County’s population is 32% Latino, and the majority of our Latino population lives in the Colorado River Valley,” an Oct. 6 letter from the commissioners to the Redistricting Commission states.
“To split Garfield County, in particular the community of New Castle in SD8, dilutes Garfield County’s Latino population electoral influence. We believe this is in direct conflict of the Voting Rights Act,” commissioners contend in the letter.
A third Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission staff plan released last week puts all of Garfield County’s municipalities, except New Castle, in the proposed new Senate District 5 with Pitkin County and the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County.
Also included in that district would be Gunnison and Hinsdale counties, and parts of Delta and Montrose counties.
Meanwhile, New Castle and the less-populated northern and western reaches of Garfield County would be in the new Senate District 8 with the rest of Eagle, plus Rio Blanco, Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Grand, Gilpin, Clear Creek and Summit counties.
A second counter-proposal offered by Garfield County commissioners last week went before the Redistricting Commission for consideration at a pair of meetings Monday and Tuesday. A final plan is expected this week.
Garfield County’s latest offering follows the latest staff plan for the most part, but it removes the small Roaring Fork Valley sliver of Eagle County in favor of keeping Garfield County whole in that district.
The staff plan is “just not something we can live with,” Jankovsky said of his efforts to shift population centers in a way that keeps the county whole.
“(The county plan) keeps two political subdivisions in Colorado whole,” the letters says of Garfield and Eagle counties. “Our proposal is more equitable, and better reflects communities of interest, economies and race.”
The Redistricting Commission has attempted to keep the greater Roaring Fork Valley communities from Aspen to Parachute together in the new state House and Senate districts that are being drawn up.
In fact, a proposed map of the new Colorado House districts forwarded to the Colorado Supreme Court for final review Tuesday puts Garfield, Pitkin and the Roaring Fork portion of Eagle County in a redrawn House District 57.
Garfield County has not formally contested the house plan. But, while keeping the Roaring Fork Valley together in one house district might make sense, that model doesn’t work for the Senate districts, Garfield County commissioners contend.
The local Latino advocacy group Voces Unidas de las Montañas has been involved in the redistricting process, and also has criticized the senate map’s separation of New Castle from the other Garfield County and Roaring Fork Valley communities.
New state legislative and congressional districts are drawn every 10 years following the completion of the U.S. Census, in order to adjust for any population changes.
The new congressional districts are now before the Colorado Supreme Court for final approval, along with the House plan sent Tuesday. The new senate district plan is forthcoming.
County commissioners indicated during their regular Monday meeting that a legal challenge to the state legislative districts is possible if Garfield County remains split.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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