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Delayed census results affect Colorado redistricting plan

February 16, 2021 GMT

DENVER (AP) — U.S. census data needed to redraw the lines of Colorado’s congressional and legislative districts has been significantly delayed, interrupting the state’s schedule.

Colorado is constitutionally required to conduct redistricting in 2021, with the state’s citizen commissions tasked with submitting proposed congressional maps by Sept. 1 and legislative maps by Sept. 15, The Denver Post reported.

But U.S. Census Bureau officials said the data won’t be available until Sept. 30.

“We are essentially dead in the water until you get that data. You can’t draw a map until you have it,” said Jessika Shipley, staff director for the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions.

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Shipley said the organization is exploring available options.

“It means we have to figure out a legal workaround (to) the Constitution and how to make that work,” Shipley said.

New maps carry profound consequences for dozens of possible Colorado candidates for state and federal offices.

The state is expected to gain an eighth seat in the U.S. House, and the race for a district with unknown boundaries could be affected by the census delay.

Colorado is midway through seating its two redistricting commissions, which must have an equal split of Democratic, Republican and independent members because of amendments passed by voters in 2018.

The state Constitution does not permit waiting until the year before the 2024 election cycle instead of the 2022 cycle.

Lawmakers could address the issue by setting new deadlines and requesting approval from the Colorado Supreme Court. But Democratic Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg said the Legislature has not gotten that far.

“It is too soon to say for certain how it will impact the process, but we must honor voters’ intent for a redistricting effort that is transparent and fair,” Fenberg said.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert said he expects the problem to be resolved by the state Supreme Court.

“Somehow, this is going to work, and districts will be drawn,” Holbert said. “It just might take longer than we anticipated.”