Colorado Redistricting Process

Congressional and Legislative

Colorado’s congressional lines are drawn by the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission and state legislative districts are drawn by the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission. The Commissions have the same selection method and procedures except for certain redistricting deadlines.

Three retired judges of different parties first randomly choose 300 commission applications from each of the two largest political parties and 450 from those unaffiliated with either of the major two parties, then the judges choose 50 applicants from each of the three pools on the basis of merit, and finally they appoint two people by lot from each of the three pools to the Commission. Majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate then each create a pool of ten people associated with the largest two parties from the remaining applications. The three judges name to the Commission one person from each legislative leader’s pool and two from the remaining pool of unaffiliated applicants. Commissioners must be electors in the state who voted in the previous two general elections in Colorado. They must be registered to vote with the same political party or unaffiliated for the past five or more years. No one person can serve on both Commissions. For five years prior to the appointment, a Commissioner must not have been a candidate for the State General Assembly, and for three years prior, must not have been involved in partisan politics.

The Commissions shall not approve a redistricting map until at least three hearings have been held in each congressional district, including at least one hearing held west of the continental divide and one hearing held east of the continental divide and either south of El Paso County's southern boundary or east of Arapahoe County's eastern boundary. Public hearings on the congressional preliminary plan must be completed by July 7 of the redistricting year, while hearings on the legislative preliminary plan must be completed by July 21 of the redistricting year. The Commissions create websites through which any Colorado resident may submit proposed maps or written comments.

The Commissions begin by considering a plan created by nonpartisan staff. Within the first 20 days after the Commissions have convened, any member of the public and any member of the Commissions may submit written comments to nonpartisan staff on the creation of the preliminary plan. Nonpartisan staff must consider these comments as they prepare, publish online, and present to the Commissions no fewer than three plans. Any Commissioner may request nonpartisan staff to prepare additional plans or amendments to plans. The Commissions may adopt a final plan at any time after presentation of the first staff plan, but must adopt a final congressional plan no later than September 1 of the redistricting year and a legislative plan no later than September 15 of the redistricting year. A two-thirds majority is required to pass maps, including votes from at least two commissioners unaffiliated with either major party. If the Commissions do not adopt a final plan, the nonpartisan staff shall submit the unamended third staff plan to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court reviews the submitted plan and determines if the plan complies with the law. For congressional plans, the Supreme Court shall approve the plan submitted or return the plan to the Commission no later than September 1 of the redistricting year. For legislative plans, the Supreme Court shall approve the plan submitted or return the plan to the Commission no later than November 15 of the redistricting year. If the Court returns the plan to either Commission, they have 12 days to hold a hearing that includes public testimony and to return an adopted plan to the Court. If the Commissions are unable to return an adopted plan, nonpartisan staff shall have an additional three days to prepare a plan that resolves the Court's reasons for disapproval and return it to the Court for approval.

The Supreme Court shall approve a plan for the redrawing of congressional districts no later than December 15 of the redistricting year, and for the redrawing of legislative districts no later than December 29 of the redistricting year.

Source: Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44-48.3.

Ballot Measure Process

Kinds of Ballot Measures
Direct initiatives and referendums are permitted to amend statutes. Direct initiatives are permitted to amend the state Constitution. Legislatively initiated ballot measures may amend the Constitution, but not statutes.

Single-Subject Rule
There is a single-subject rule.

Initiative Subject Restrictions
There are no initiative subject restrictions.

Signature Requirements
The signature requirement for constitutional amendments is 5% of all votes for Secretary of State at the previous General Election, 5% for all other initiatives, and 5% for a veto referendum. 2,492,635 people voted for a candidate for Secretary of State in the 2018 General Election in Colorado, so 124,632 signatures are required for constitutional amendments, any other initiative, and veto referendums. Signatures for constitutional amendments must also be collected in each state senate district equal to 2% of the registered electors in each respective district.

Submission Deadlines
Initiative petitions must be submitted at least three months prior to the election in which it will appear on the ballot (August 2, 2021). Referendums must be submitted at least 90 days after the adjournment of the General Assembly which passed the bill to be voted upon.

Circulation Period
The circulation period for initiative petitions is six months.

Ballot Title and Summary
The Title Board prepares the Title, and the director of research for the legislative council prepares an impartial voter information pamphlet with an abstract of the fiscal impact study and arguments for and against the measure. Expedited reviews for Titles and Summaries are permitted.

Other Requirements
A fiscal impact statement is required. Circulators are required to be a citizen of the United States, at least 18 years old, and a resident of the state. Constitutional amendments require 55% of the vote to pass. The General Assembly can amend or repeal initiated statutes by a simple majority, and amendments by a two-thirds supermajority to refer it to the voters. Referendums may not contain appropriations for the support and maintenance of the Departments of State and state institutions or affect emergency legislation. Initiatives are permitted on general election and odd-year ballots, but not on primary or special election ballots.

Source: Colo. Const. art. V. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-40 (2019). Colorado General Assembly Website

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