Unexpected consequences of redistricting in the south metro area

BY FREDA MIKLIN
GOVERNMENT REPORTER

Redistricting is the term that describes the process that occurs everywhere in the United States every ten years after the national Census, which is required by the Constitution, is completed. It reapportions all Congressional districts in each state and all the state legislative districts, based on the number of people and where they live. The goal is to have approximately the same number of residents in each congressional and legislative district, so that elected officials of a district represent an equal number of people.

Traditionally, redistricting was a partisan process in which the political party in power at the state level drew district lines that they believed increased the chances that their party’s candidates would be elected to the Congress and the state’s general assembly. That is what is meant by the term “gerrymandering.” 

In 2018, the people of Colorado, with the support of elected officials and the leaders of the state’s major political parties, voted to permanently remove partisan influence from the redistricting process by creating an Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) comprised of a predetermined number of individuals affiliated with the major parties and those who are unaffiliated with either one. Those who served were selected transparently from preset criteria. One of those criteria was that the individual could not have changed their party affiliation within the past five years. 2021 marked the first time the IRC did its work. Most of those who were interested enough to follow the IRC during the six months it did its job viewed it as being fair overall. Before its determinations could be final, they had to be approved by the Colorado Supreme Court, which occurred in November 2021.

The Villager recently caught up with State Senator Chris Kolker, elected to a four-year term in Senate District 27 in 2020. Speaking with him, we found out that the IRC changed the boundaries of SD27 last year, as they did for many state House and Senate districts, effective with the November 2022 election. After redistricting, Kolker is no longer a resident of SD27, despite the fact that, as of November 2022, he will be two years into the four-year term to which he was elected in that district. 

After redistricting, Kolker resides in SD16, currently represented by State Sen. Tammy Story, whose term ends with the November 2022 election. Story is not running for re-election in SD27 in November. Rather, she is running for a state House seat in HD25. Since Kolker is only halfway through his four-year term, under the rules of redistricting, on January 1, 2023, he will become the state senator representing SD16 for the remaining two years to which he was elected.

Kolker told The Villager that his new district, SD16, “is shifted west, including Columbine Valley, all the way to Ken Caryl, up to C-470.”

Since there is no incumbent in the newly redrawn SD27, it will be treated as an open seat this November. The Republican candidate for the seat is newcomer Tom Kim. Democrat Tom Sullivan, who currently represents state House District 37, is the Democratic candidate for SD27.

The seat that Sullivan is vacating to run for the state Senate is HD37, which will also be an open seat in November. Although HD37 was formerly in Centennial, after redistricting, it includes Greenwood Village, which is currently in HD3, along with west Centennial. Running in November to represent HD37 are Democrat Ruby Dickson and Republican Paul Archer.

Incumbent HD3 Rep. Meg Froelich, Democratic Majority Caucus Co-Chair, who still resides in her current district, is running for re-election. She is being opposed by Republican Marla Fernandez.

And so it goes.

fmiklin.villager@gmail.com