In response to the delayed release of 2020 census data necessary for redistricting, the Colorado General Assembly considered S.B. 21-247, which included certain temporary changes to the state laws effectuating the constitutionally established and prescribed redistricting procedures for the state's redistricting commissions. Among other changes, the bill sought to change the statutory definition of "necessary census data" to allow the commissions to develop their preliminary plans using the unadjusted, total population data released by the Census Bureau (legacy data) and other population and demographic data from federal or state sources that the commissions approve. Additionally, the bill sought to change the standard of review that the Colorado Supreme Court would apply to redistricting plans to a "substantial compliance" standard, rather than the ordinary constitutional review standard. The General Assembly submitted interrogatories to the state Supreme Court inquiring about the legality of the bill's provisions.
On June 1, 2021, the Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion that S.B. 21-247 would be unconstitutional if enacted. The court explained that Colorado's voters adopted the redistricting commission constitutional amendments specifically to remove authority over the redistricting process from the General Assembly, and therefore they lacked the authority to direct the independent commission to interpret constitutional terms in a certain way or to take certain actions that were not already required. Additionally, the court found that the General Assembly lacked authority to define which standard applies to constitutional challenge because that power lied solely with the state judiciary.
Colorado Supreme Court - No. 21SA146