DENVER A two-week-long legal chess match over Colorados congressional districts came down to one move Monday.
A Denver judge will draw seven new districts for Colorado, and closing arguments centered on the Democratic sides plan to target Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora.
In order to make Coffmans safe Republican district winnable for either party, Democrats want to shift heavily Republican Douglas County into the Eastern Plains district.
To keep populations balanced, Democrats would move Larimer County, home to Fort Collins, out of the plains district and into a new college-town district with Boulder.
Republicans played defense against the Democratic move, with arguments that Denver Chief District Judge Robert Hyatt should draw a map that makes as few changes as possible to the current scheme.
But Democratic lawyer Mark Grueskin said big changes in Colorado the last 10 years require a new map, instead of the status quo.
You could look at the lines, or you could look behind the lines, Grueskin said.
He cited the reductions in funding to colleges as a reason to create a university-focused district.
Republican lawyer Richard Westfall said the current map does a good job of reflecting the states communities of interest a legal criteria the judge must use when deciding the case.
We respectfully submit that communities of interest are more permanent and more immutable than Mr. Grueskin suggests, Westfall said.
Neither major party proposed major changes for Rep. Scott Tiptons 3rd Congressional District, which includes the Western Slope and Pueblo.
But the Colorado Latino Forum asked Hyatt for a major redrawing of the Western Slope and Eastern Plains districts, in order to boost Hispanic voting strength on the plains. The groups map moves Pueblo and the San Luis Valley out of the 3rd district and adds Fort Collins to keep the population balanced.
Grueskin said former Rep. John Salazars three victories in the 3rd district prove that Hispanics dont need a redrawn district to win in rural Colorado.
In the 3rd Congressional District as its configured today, we have a crossover district, Grueskin said.
But Nina Rodriguez, lawyer for the Colorado Latino Forum, said Hispanics need to have real critical mass in a district to account for historic inequities.
Mr. Salazar was the first (Hispanic congressman) in 200 years, and so far the last, she said.
The issue is in court because the Legislature failed to produce a new map, as required every 10 years after the census.
Hyatt will issue a written ruling sometime this fall.
Reach Joe Hanel at firstname.lastname@example.org.