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‘Communities Of Interest’ Are In The Eye Of The Beholder

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University of Colorado (credit: CBS)

University of Colorado (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Between the Republican Presidential Primary debates last week and national celebrations commemorating Veterans Day, few noticed the landmark court decision made by Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt late last week.

Judge Hyatt ruled that the new congressional district map for Colorado for the next 10 years will be the one submitted by the Democrats, named “Moreno/South.”

RELATED: Judge Sides With Dems On Congressional Maps

As it was 10 years ago, a judge has decided what the final Congressional map of Colorado will look like since the Legislature, the method dictated in the constitution, again failed to arrive at a map.

The new map changes the representation of Coloradans in Congress significantly and raises the debate again about how we go about drawing Congressional maps.

Congressional districts are supposed to be mapped out by determining “communities of interest.” While keeping communities of interest together is mandated in the constitution, how that is measured and defined is vague at best.

The new map gives us a variety of examples of how “communities of interest” are apparently in the eye of the beholder.

PHOTO GALLERY: Colorado’s Congressional Delegation

The map inexplicably puts Larimer County, which has been in the 4th Congressional district since the district’s inception, with Boulder in the 2nd district. Some of the reasoning mentioned for this move was because Fort Collins and Boulder both have universities.

However, it’s clear to anyone who has been in Colorado for more than 5 minutes that the universities in Boulder and Ft. Collins hardly represent their entire counties, nor do the schools have a great deal in common in regards to their culture. Yet the schools are one of the key reasons that the two counties are now somehow in the same Congressional district under the communities of interest rule.

Another community of interest problem comes in the 4th district. The 4th CD lost Larimer County and gained Douglas County. While Douglas County does have some rural areas, the majority of the voters in that county reside in suburban Highlands Ranch.

congressional districts map Communities Of Interest Are In The Eye Of The Beholder

Colorado's Congressional Districts (credit: CBS)

I should note that I have a particular bias here since I reside in Highlands Ranch and will now be represented in the same district as Trinidad and Sterling.

I personally have nothing against Trinidad or Sterling. They are both fine small towns. But the needs of the residents in both of those towns resemble very few of the needs of a major suburb of Denver.

Judge Hyatt’s decision may be appealed by the GOP and the State Supreme Court may indeed overturn the decision. But even if the decision is overruled, the inconsistent definition of the “community of interest” will continue to be a problem.

I’d recommend that this is a problem that the Legislature can tackle and solve, but let’s face it — we know how that would turn out.

Frankly, the only way the communities of interest problem is going to get solved, or at the very least defined, is going to be if the communities involved actually get interested. If the communities that have been haphazardly lumped together actually speak up, a solution may at least get some traction.

On second thought, the Legislature idea is probably far more likely to happen.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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