Colorado minority groups look for greater representation in redistricting

Colorado minority groups look for greater representation in redistricting

Strengthening minority representation in Congress was the call that came from many who testified at a congressional redistricting hearing held Monday night concerning how to expand Congressional District 1. The event brought out both District 1 Congresswoman Diana DeGette and Denver Mayor Bill Vidal who said their main concern was keeping Denver as one voting bloc.

The state is required to redraw congressional lines every ten years after the national census is taken in order to ensure that representation across the state is fair and equitable. Last year’s census found that the state had grown to 5 million people, but had not grown quite enough to add an additional Congressional District. That means the current districts will be required to either give up or subsume large numbers of people in order to create near equal districts.

Rep. Diana DeGette and Denver Mayor Bill Vidal prepare to testify

Amber Tafoya, executive director for the Latina Initiative, while testifying before the Joint Select Committee on Redistricting, said her group was in favor of increasing the power of the Latino/Latina vote in hopes that they could see better representation for their communities.

“We hope that this will spread us out in a way that will still allow us to elect candidates of our choice,” Tafoya said. “We want to be able to elect candidates of our choice… we are hoping that there will be one, perhaps two districts where Latinos can elect candidates of their choice.”

Congressional District 1, consisting primarily of Denver, is slated to pick up close to 56,418 people after the General Assembly decides on Colorado’s congressional map before February 2012. And with CD 6 over the magic number of 718,457 by 79,356 people, it is likely at least some of the people will come from there.

While redistricting has been a partisan tug of war in the past, as political parties look to carve out a map that best serves their own interests, a Joint Select Committee on Redistricting co-chaired by both a Democrat and a Republican has been formed to produce a fair map. A report is due to the General Assembly April 14, 2011.

Co-Chair of the committee Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial, said the committee planned to “work in a bipartisan fashion to pass a map that is fair for all of Colorado.”

All those testifying proclaimed the need to keep Denver together and not split it into different congressional districts; however, the suggestions on how to do this were vast and in some cases undefined as many people explained it was probably best just to pick up bits and pieces around the edges.

“In the 14 years of experience that I have had in representing this district, I realize the importance of keeping Denver together as one congressional district,” DeGette said.

However, when asked what districts she would like to see added to that district, she said she did not want to be put in the place where she had to choose who she represented.

“I am a little agnostic about which areas I represent. I feel that some of the areas to the south of Denver are similar to Cherry Hills Village  or Englewood which I represented… that might be an option, but I certainly would not want to pick between future potential constituents,” DeGette said.

While the turnout was less than expected, many spoke to the need of maintaining communities of interest but doing so in a manner that would allow them to maximize their voting power.

Linda White, a citizen representing herself, said that she hoped that either Commerce City or portions of Aurora would be added in hopes that a Hispanic or African American person could be elected to represent that population’s interests.

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