Colorado Supreme Court Approves Commission-Drawn Congressional Map

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Nov. 1, the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously approved the state’s new congressional map, concluding that the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission did not abuse its discretion in applying the constitutionally required criteria. In 2018, Colorado voters approved Amendment Y — a constitutional amendment that placed congressional redistricting responsibilities into the hands of a citizen commission. The amendment requires the state Supreme Court to review the map to ensure it complies with the state’s redistricting criteria. The criteria includes compliance with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and making a “good-faith effort” to achieve population equality between districts, preserve communities of interest and political subdivisions, create compact districts and maximize the number of politically competitive districts. In its opinion today, the Colorado Supreme Court summarized that “the ultimate question for this court is not whether the Commission adopted a perfect redistricting plan, or even the ‘best’ plan among the options presented to it; rather, we examine whether the final adopted plan ‘fell within the range of reasonable options’” consistent with the constitutional requirements. 

The state Supreme Court first addressed potential procedural issues and found no issue with the deviation from the original Sept. 1 deadline or with deficiencies in the commission’s process, as was alleged by several groups who submitted briefs with the court as part of the approval process. No outside groups challenged the map on the basis that it failed the criteria for population equality or compactness. In response to the argument that the map should have created at least one district where Latino voters could elect their candidate of choice, the court wrote that “Colorado does not have a sufficiently large and geographically compact voting-age minority population” to necessitate the creation of a majority-minority district. The court held that the commission appropriately considered race throughout its process, even without hiring an outside expert, and that the map complies with the VRA. The court also rejected claims that Colorado law requires additional protection for minority groups’ electoral influence because the language goes beyond what is written in the VRA. Instead, the court concluded that the law is “coextensive with the VRA provisions as they existed in 2018 and creates no further requirements for the Commission.” Finally, the court also found that the commission made a “reasonable choice among multiple alternatives” regarding the community of interest criteria; the court held that the commission applied similar discretion in regards to political competitiveness.

The Colorado Supreme Court is also reviewing the state legislative maps that the legislative redistricting commission approved mid-October. 

Read the briefs and opinion here.