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.
Previous Redistricting Cycles
- State Court’s Original Plan (Split-control General Assembly failed to pass; Denver District Court approved map proposed by Democratic state legislators)
- Adopted = November 10, 2011
- Approved by Colorado Supreme Court = December 5, 2011
- Litigation History
- Hall v. Moreno, 270 P.3d 961 (Colo. 2012): After the split-control Colorado General Assembly failed the pass a congressional plan by its deadline, a coalition of Colorado voters and interest groups filed separate state lawsuits requesting the court to adopt their proposed redistricting plan, which were later consolidated. The Denver District Court approved the Moreno plaintiffs’ proposed plan, which was supported by Democratic state legislators, on November 10, 2011, and the California Supreme Court affirmed the validity of the district court’s ordered plan on February 27, 2012.
- Commission’s Original Plans
- 1st Plans Adopted = September 19, 2011
- Rejected by Colorado Supreme Court on November 15, 2011
- Final Plans Adopted = November 29, 2011
- Litigation History
- In re Reapportionment of the Colo. Gen. Assembly, 332 P.3d 108 (Colo. 2011): Pursuant to the mandated state supreme court review of the Commission’s adopted plans, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected the Commission’s adopted legislative plans for failing to be sufficiently attentive to county boundaries as is required by the state constitution. The Commission amended and adopted new plans on November 29, 2011, which the Colorado Supreme Court approved on December 5, 2011.
- State Court’s Original Plan (Split-control General Assembly failed to pass; Denver District Court adopted amended version of Republican leadership’s map)
- Adopted = January 25, 2002
- Approved by Colorado Supreme Court = February 26, 2002
- Litigation History
- Beauprez v. Avalos, 42 P.3d 642 (Colo. 2002): After the Colorado General Assembly failed to pass a plan by its deadline, the Denver District Court assumed redistricting responsibility and adopted an amended version of the plan proposed by Republican leadership in the state on January 25, 2002. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the validity of the district court’s adopted map on February 26, 2002.
- People ex rel. Salazar v. Davidson, 79 P.3d 1221 (Colo. 2003): After the district court’s congressional map was used for the 2002 elections, the General Assembly passed a new congressional redistricting plan that was signed into law in 2003. The Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the General Assembly and Secretary of State in the state Supreme Court seeking an injunction barring the new plan from being implemented. On December 1, 2003, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and barred the new plan from being implemented on the grounds the Colorado Constitution prohibited mid-decade redistricting and the General Assembly lost their chance to enact new plans by failing to do so before its deadline.
- Keller v. Davidson, No. 3CV3452 (Denv. Dist. Ct. May 9, 2003): Colorado citizens filed suit seeking to enjoin the implementation of the General Assembly’s 2003 congressional plan on the grounds it violated the Colorado Constitution’s prohibition on mid-decade redistricting. After being removed to federal court, the case was stayed pending the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling in the related case People ex rel. Salazar v. Davidson. The case was mooted after the Salazar decision enjoined the implementation of the 2003 congressional plan.
- Original Plans
- 1st Adopted Plans = November 27, 2001
- Rejected by Colorado Supreme Court on January 28, 2002
- 2nd Adopted Plans = February 7, 2002
- Approved by Colorado Supreme Court on February 22, 2002
- Litigation History
- In re Reapportionment of the Colo. Gen. Assembly I, 45 P.3d 1237 (Colo. 2002): Pursuant to the mandated state supreme court review of adopted plans, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected the Commission’s first adopted legislative plans on the grounds it did not sufficiently adhere to existing county boundaries and it did not include a showing that less drastic alternatives could not have satisfied the equal population requirements of the Colorado Constitution.
- In re Reapportionment of the Colo. Gen. Assembly II, 46 P.3d 1083 (Colo. 2002): Pursuant to the mandated state supreme court review of adopted plans, the Colorado Supreme Court approved the Commission’s second adopted legislative plans on February 22, 2002.
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.
There is a single-subject rule.
Initiative Subject Restrictions
There are no initiative subject restrictions.
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.
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.
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.
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
In The News
- Colorado’s New Redistricting Process Faces a Time Crunch. The State Supreme Court will Decide Whether to Push Back Deadlines, The Colorado Sun (7/23/21)
- Redistricting Commissioners to Head Back to Court, Consider Paring Public Input Hearings, Colorado Politics (7/12/21)
- Redistricting Panels Told WashCo Needs to be in 65th House District, Sterling Journal-Advocate (7/11/21)
- Colorado is Gaining a House District. Here's what the Preliminary District Map Looks Like, CBS News (7/6/21)
- Democrats could Keep Control of Colorado Statehouse Under Proposed Redistricting Plan, The Denver Post (6/29/21)
- First Draft of Colorado’s New State Senate, House District Maps could Pit 20 Incumbents Against Each Other, The Colorado Sun (6/29/21)
- Weld Commissioners Insist County be Kept Whole in Redistricting Process, Commissioner Says, Greeley Tribune (6/25/21)
- Colorado Redistricting Commission Releases 'Starting Point' Congressional Map, The Center Square (6/24/21)
- Colorado Leads U.S. States with First Look at New Congressional Districts, Reuters (6/18/21)
- Redistricting Commissions Looking for Public Input Before Drawing Preliminary Maps, Steamboat Pilot & Today (6/6/21)
- Colorado Supreme Court Tells Lawmakers to Stay Out of Redistricting Process, but Signs Off on Use of Preliminary Data, The Colorado Sun (6/1/21)
- Colorado’s Independent Redistricting Commissions Prepare Preliminary Data, Pagosa Daily Post (5/18/21)
- Colorado’s Congressional Mapmakers will Move Ahead without Census Data, The Denver Post (5/10/21)
- Colorado Lawmakers Look to Use Preliminary Data for Redistricting Amid Census Delays, The Pueblo Chieftan (5/5/21)
- Colorado will Gain Eighth U.S. House Seat Based on Census, AP (4/26/21)
- Groups Urge Colorado Redistricting Commission to Keep Rural Counties Together, Coloradoan (4/23/21)
- Colorado's Rural Counties Call for Congressional District Shakeup, The Gazette (4/21/21)
- Colorado Redistricting Chairman Voted out of Leadership Position after Social Media Posts, The Gazette (4/5/21)
- Final State Legislative Redistricting Commissioners Selected, The Gazette (3/16/21)
- Final Congressional Redistricting Commissioners Selected as Pressure Rises, The Gazette (3/1/21)
- Legislative Leaders Announce Picks for Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Commissions, The Gazette (2/17/21)
- Delayed Census Results Affect Colorado Redistricting Plan, AP (2/16/21)
- More Redistricting Commissioners in Colorado Selected, New Delays Predicted, The Gazette (2/12/21)
- Colorado's Redistricting Plan Upended by Delayed Census Results, The Denver Post (2/12/21)
- 'Unaffiliated' Colorado Redistricting Commission Applicants Assailed for Perceived Biases, The Denver Gazette (2/5/21)
- Delay in Census Data Slows Political Redistricting in Colorado, 9News (2/1/21)
- GOP-Controlled Senate Committees Support Right-to-Work, Oppose Independent Redistricting Panel, WMUR (2/1/21)
- Colorado's First Independent Congressional Redistricting Committee Gets First Members, The Gazette (2/1/21)
- U.S. Census Delays are Threatening to Upend Colorado’s New Redistricting Process, The Colorado Sun (1/27/21)
- Selection Process Underway for Independent Commissions to Redraw Legislative, Congressional Borders, The Denver Channel (1/13/21)
- Esri's Web-Based Redistricting Solution to be Used by Colorado, AP (12/9/20)
- Thousands of Coloradans Applied for New Citizen Redistricting Commission, The Denver Gazette (12/4/20)
- Colorado Needs More People to Help Redraw Political Maps. And Lack of Diversity Remains an Issue, The Colorado Sun (11/8/20)
- As 2020 Census Approaches Finish line, Colorado Looks to Close the Gap of Who's Undercounted, Colorado Sun (9/25/20)
- Colorado's New Redistricting Process Needs You - Yes, You - to Help Decide the Political Districts, Colorado Sun (8/17/20)
- Colorado Congressional Dems Argue the Census Count Should't End Early, CPR News (8/12/20)
- Who Should Represent Colorado? The Answers Take Shape this Week as Census, Redistricting Hit Key Phases, Colorado Sun (8/11/20)
- Applications Open for Colorado Redistricting Commissions, Colorado Politics (8/10/20)
- Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions Seeks Applicants, The Durango Herald (8/9/20)
- Once-in-a-Decade Effort to Redraw Colorado's Political Maps is Underway, Colorado Newsline (8/3/20)
- Colorado Redistricting Commission Applications Available Starting Aug. 10, Vail Daily (7/30/20)
- Colorado Independent Redistricting Commissions Seek Comments, The Durango Herald (7/20/20)
- "It's Incredibly Important We All Get counted": Rural Colorado's Census Response Rates Are Lagging, The Colorado Sun (6/16/20)
- Colorado ends prison gerrymandering, The Fulcrum (3/25/20)
- Lawmakers try to alter voter-approved redistricting reforms, AP (3/5/20)
- More states to use redistricting reforms after 2020 census, AP (3/5/20)