Apr 30, 2021 | NEWS | By Avery Colborn | Photo by Iris Guo
Following the recently updated U.S. Census Bureau population figures, Colorado will gain an eighth congressional seat beginning in 2022.
Colorado is among six states that will gain at least one congressional seat, while seven other states will lose seats, including New York and California.
The results of the census show that over the last decade, the U.S. had the second-lowest population growth in the nation’s history. Thirty-seven states grew more slowly in the 2010s than they had in the previous decade, due to several factors including declines in the number of births, increases in the number of deaths, reduction in immigration, and delayed marriage and childbearing among the millennial generation.
Colorado still remains one of the faster growing states, ranking sixth overall with a growth rate of 14.8% over the past decade.
While the overall national population didn’t have much of an increase, the shifting of congressional seats reflects the rising trend of out-migration: people moving to other states, particularly in the West.
Due to the ongoing increase in Colorado’s population over the past decade, the additional seat has been anticipated, but it is still unclear what area this new congressional district will cover.
An independent commission is determining where and how these boundaries will be designated, though the results will likely not be finalized until the end of the year.
Currently, Colorado’s seven congressional districts are represented by four Democrats and three Republicans. The new seat will open up the possibility for several big-name politicians to put their name in the running, depending on where the district will be located.
But the additional representation for Colorado has already become a source of alarm for several political organizations concerned with how the state will be redrawn.
Three groups, Pro 15, Action 22, and Club 20, are in favor of seeing three congressional districts that include northeastern Colorado, southern Colorado, and the Western Slope, respectively; they argue that including the state’s major metropolitan areas such as Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs would be an inaccurate representation of the state’s demographics.
Executive director of Club 20, from the Western Slope, told the Colorado Sun that she would like to see that region of the state be designated as its own district. “Western Colorado issues and culture are very different from those in the metropolitan areas of our state,” Reece said. “Club 20 will vigorously oppose any effort to divide the Western Slope into different congressional districts.”
However, it is likely that the commission will have to include at least some metropolitan areas into the western district, as the region doesn’t have a large enough population to sustain a district on its own.
Club 22 advocates for grouping Pueblo, the San Luis Valley, and southeastern Colorado together, while the anti-gerrymandering organization All On The Line advocates for locating the new district on the Front Range.
“Due to Colorado’s rapidly growing population, a new district in the Front Range urban corridor would provide fair representation to the state’s various communities of interest,” said Marco Dorado, All On The Line’s Colorado state director, in a written statement.
While there are already many outspoken advocates in favor of redistricting, Scott Martinez, a lawyer who has previously helped draw congressional maps in 2001 and 2011, says it is too soon to tell what the outcome will be.
“If they start with Pueblo, you get one map. If they start with Denver, you get another map,” Martinez told the Sun. “It’s really anyone’s guess what all eight districts will look like.” (Click here for an in-depth analysis of the potential outcomes of the redrawing by the Colorado Sun.)
Colorado is not alone in grappling with the issue of how to redraw these districts. A total of seven seats have been shifted, affecting 13 states.
The shift in congressional representation will not only affect state and local governments, but could potentially have a large impact on party control of the House, as well as the distribution of Electoral College votes for upcoming presidential elections.
The boundaries of the new districts and the shifting of seats will go into effect at the next congressional election in 2022.