Groups say Colorado weakens Latino votes for Congress
DENVER (AP) — Civil rights groups on Friday filed to block Colorado’s new congressional map, arguing the independent redistricting commission that redrew the state’s legislative boundaries to match its population growth shortchanged Hispanic residents.
The filings from the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization and the League of United Latin American Citizens contend that the commission continued to dilute the power of Latino voters by following traditional congressional maps in the state, which have separated heavily-Hispanic areas. They argue that Latinos — who are 21% of Colorado’s population — are scattered among several congressional districts, mixed in with whites who vote against their preferred candidates.
The groups pleaded for the commission to group Latinos together by, for example, splitting the city of Colorado Springs and attaching its heavily-Latino southern end to a southern Colorado district including Pueblo and the San Luis Valley. The commission balked at that, preferring to preserve what are known as “communities of interest” — cities and neighborhoods with shared needs.
“The Commission treated Colorado’s substantial and growing Latino voter population as just another community of interest, no more important than those involved in ski recreation, living along a highway corridor, or working in the aviation industry,” LULAC argued in its filing, written by the Campaign Legal Center.
When it submitted the maps, the commission told the court they complied with the federal Voting Rights Act and did not discriminate against any voter on basis of ethnicity or language. The commission did not respond to the filings Friday.
Friday was the last day outside groups could challenge the maps that were submitted last week to the state’s high court. If the court finds the maps violate the state constitution it can direct the commission to re-draw them. It has until Nov. 1 to make that decision.
This is the first redistricting cycle in which Colorado has used independent commissions — made up of 12 members evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and independents — to draw legislative lines — one for its eight congressional districts and one for its statehouse districts. The civil rights groups note that Latinos do not comprise a majority, or even a plurality, of any of the congressional districts.
Instead, they are often grouped with more conservative white rural voters, such as in the state’s new 8th district. That stretches from heavily-Latino Adams County, north of Denver, to Greeley and surrounding areas in Weld County. It’s a swing seat, but its partisan balance comes partly from grouping Democratic-leaning Latino communities with rural, more Republican white ones.
“This needless vote dilution is explained not by a desire to keep counties or communities whole but by an effort to increase competitiveness in one district,” the LULAC complaint said.