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Prof. Justin Levitt's Doug Spencer's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

State Summary

As of 2018, Colorado uses an independent commission to draw congressional districts, and a similar independent commission to draw state legislative districts.

1050 qualified applicants were randomly selected for each commission (here are the lists for congressional districts and state legislative districts); a panel of retired judges then drew from this selection to create a pool of 150 nominees for each commission (here are the lists for congressional districts and state legislative districts).  The judges’ panel then randomly chose 6 commissioners for each commission (congressional districts and state legislative districts).  The four legislative leaders each put forward further applicants (congressional districts and state legislative districts); from the legislative leaders’ pools, the judges’ panel then chose the final 6 commissioners.

The final commissioners are listed here for congressional districts and here for state legislative districts.

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Seats: (projected)

Institution:

Drawn by:

Plan Status:

Party Control:
  Upper House:
  Lower House:
  Governor:

Key Info for 2000 Cycle

Primary governing law

Key Info for 2010 Cycle

Website

Primary governing law

Key Info for 2020 Cycle

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Primary governing law

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The Latest Updates

Sep 16, 2021
The Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission will be holding public hearings on Friday Sept. 17 and Saturday Sept. 18.
Sep 15, 2021
The Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released the second congressional staff plan.
Sep 13, 2021
The nonpartisan staff of the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission has published a proposed set of maps for state senate and state house districts.
Sep 10, 2021
The Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Committee announced its public meeting schedule. The public may register to speak at the meetings.
Sep 7, 2021
Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released public meeting schedule to review the latest congressional plan. Public must register to submit public comment.
Sep 3, 2021
The Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released its first congressional redistricting plan.
Aug 12, 2021
The Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission decided that it would not count incarcerated persons at their last known address when drawing congressional districts, but would instead use the address of the prisons where they are held.
Aug 2, 2021
The Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission adopted a new schedule in response to the recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling.
Jul 26, 2021
Colorado Supreme Court ordered an updated schedule for the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission and the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission.
Jul 13, 2021
Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission has petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court to approve a revised schedule for the redistricting process, with a final submission date of October 28.
Jun 29, 2021
Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission released preliminary legislative maps for the state house districts and state senate districts.
Jun 23, 2021
Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission has released preliminary congressional maps for the 2020 redistricting cycle.
Jun 1, 2021
The Colorado Supreme Court answered the state's interrogatories on Senate Bill 21-247 and held that the General Assembly does not have authority over the independent redistricting commissions.
May 6, 2021
Colorado's Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission asks for flexibility to draw districts without reallocating the prison population as required by law, if prison data is delayed as expected.
May 4, 2021
The Colorado legislature passed resolution 21-1008 asking the state supreme court to rule on the constitutionality of S.B. 21-247 which would expedite the generation of preliminary redistricting plans.
Apr 26, 2021
Colorado gains one congressional seat following the 2020 census. The state will have eight congressional districts beginning in 2022.
Mar 1, 2021
Colorado's Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission selected its final six commissioners.
Feb 26, 2021
The final six members of Colorado's commission to draw congressional districts will be selected at a public meeting on Mar. 1, 2021.
Feb 16, 2021
The legislative leaders have each provided a list of ten finalists for Colorado's commission to draw congressional districts.
Feb 12, 2021
Colorado selected first six commissioners for the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission.
Feb 1, 2021
Colorado selected the first six commissioners for Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission.  
Jan 26, 2021
The first six members of the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission will be selected at a public meeting on February 1, 2021, at 2:00 PM. Learn more HERE.  
Nov 10, 2020
The application process for appointment to the Colorado independent commissions closed.

Institution

Colorado’s congressional and state legislative lines are drawn by two distinct 12-member independent commissions, each chosen in similar fashion, and created by ballot initiative in 2018.  (The initiative for congressional maps is here; the initiative for state legislative maps is here.)  Commissioners must have been registered with the same party (or no party) for five years and must have voted in the last two general elections.  Commissioners may not have been, within five years of appointment, a candidate for the legislative office whose maps are drawn by the commission, and they may not have been, within three years of appointment, paid by one of those legislators or their campaigns.  Commissioners may also not have been, within three years of appointment, elected officials, party employees, or lobbyists.  [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44.1(2), 47(2)]

An initial pool of qualified applicants — 300 Democrats, 300 Republicans, and 450 unaffiliated with any party — is randomly selected from all applications submitted.  With an eye to analytical skills, impartiality, the ability to promote consensus, and experience in actively engaging Colorado civil society, a multipartisan panel of recently retired state appellate judges choose 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans, and 50 who are unaffiliated with any party to be nominees for each commission. [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44.1, 47]

The judges’ panel then randomly chooses 2 Democrats, 2 Republicans, and 2 who are unaffiliated; each random choice must represent a different congressional district.  The four legislative leaders (majority and minority leader in each legislative house) then each put forward ten further applicants from the partisan nomination pools.  The judges’ panel selects one more commissioner from each of these four pools of ten, and two more commissioners unaffiliated with any party, attempting to ensure that the commission as a whole reflects racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity.  Each final commission thus has 12 members (4 Democrats, 4 Republicans, 4 unaffiliated). [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44.1, 47]

The applicants at each stage of the process are listed here for the congressional commission and here for the state legislative commission.  The final commissioners are listed here for the congressional commission and here for the state legislative commission.

For each commission, nonpartisan staff prepare an initial plan subject to public hearings, which the commission may modify.  Final maps must be passed with the vote of 8 commissioners, including 2 of the unaffiliated commissioners.   If the commission cannot agree on a plan, nonpartisan staff must prepare at least three plans for commission consideration; if the commission does not agree on any of the plans prepared by nonpartisan staff or its own plan, the “third” designated nonpartisan staff plan will govern.  [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44.2(2), 44.4, 48(2), 48.2]

The Colorado Supreme Court will automatically review any map; the Court must make its decision on the congressional map by Nov. 1, 2021 and the state legislative map by Nov. 15, 2021.  [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44.5, 48.3]

Timing

The nonpartisan staff for each commission must produce initial plans 30-45 days after census data are available; public hearings must be complete by July 7, 2021 for the congressional plan and July 21, 2021 for the state legislative plan.  Final maps were originally due by Sept. 1, 2021 for the congressional plan and Sept. 15, 2021 for the state legislative plan. However, due to the pandemic and the resulting census delays the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court to establish a modified schedule.  Pursuant the authority provided under Colo. Const. art. V, § 44.5(1) the Court ordered the final congressional plan be submitted by Oct. 1, 2021 and the final legislative plan by Oct. 15, 2021.

Candidates must file for congressional and state legislative primary elections by Mar. 15, 2022. [Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-4-801(5)]

The Colorado constitution seems to prohibit redrawing district lines mid-decade, before the next Census, by tying redistricting activity to the year following the year of the decennial census.  [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44(3)(d), 46(3)(d)]

Public input

The commission must, “to the maximum extent practicable,” provide opportunities for public testimony, including at least three hearings in each congressional district, and publication requirements for relevant comments.  The final plans must also be accompanied by reports explaining how the plan reflects the balance of political competitiveness with other state criteria [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44.2(3), 44.3(3)(c), 44.4, 48(3), 48.1(3)(c), 48.2]

Meetings and other input will be collected here. The meeting schedules for the Independent Legislative Commission and Independent Congressional Commission can be found here (or here in calendar format).

Criteria

Like all states, Colorado must comply with constitutional equal population requirements.  State law further provides that the commission must make a good-faith effort to achieve “precise mathematical population equality” for congressional districts, justifying each variance; and that the commission must make a good-faith effort to achieve “mathematical population equality” for state legislative districts, with no more than 5% deviation between most populous and least populous district. [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44.3(1)(a), 48.1(1)(a)]  Colorado will adjust census data for both congressional and state legislative districts in order to count incarcerated individuals at their legal residence (usually the last known residence before incarceration). [Colo. Rev. Stat. § 2-2-901 – 902]

Colorado must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.  Maps may further not be drawn for the purpose of or with the result of diluting the electoral influence of a racial or language minority group.  [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44.3(4)(b), 48.1(4)(b)]

The Colorado constitution further requires that districts be contiguous.  The districts must also preserve commmunities of interest and whole political subdivisions  (like counties, cities, and towns) “as much as is reasonably possible”; for state legislative districts, if the commission divides a political subdivision, it should minimize the number of times that any individual political subdivision is divided.   Districts must also be “as compact as is reasonably possible,”  and must, “to the extent possible, maximize the number of politically competitive districts,” defined as having the reasonable potential for the elected representative’s party affiliation to change at least once before the next census.  No map may be drawn for the purpose of protecting an incumbent or candidate.  [Colo. Const. art. V, §§ 44(3)(b), 44.3, 46(3)(b), 48.1]

2010 cycle

Colorado’s legislature failed to enact a congressional plan.  On Nov. 10, 2011, a state court enacted a map aligned with the interest of Colorado Democrats, which was then approved by the state Supreme Court.  [Hall v. Moreno, 270 P.3d 961 (Colo. 2012)]

For state legislative districts, the state’s commission enacted a plan on Sept. 19, 2011; that plan was struck down by the state Supreme Court as insufficiently attuned to county boundaries. The commission redrew state legislative plans on Nov. 29, 2011, and those plans were approved by the state Supreme Court. [In re Reapportionment of Colo. General Assembly, 332 P.3d 108 (Colo. 2011)]

2000 cycle

Colorado’s legislature failed to enact a congressional plan.  On Jan. 25, 2002, a state court enacted a map based largely on the Republican leadership’s plan, which was then approved by the state Supreme Court. The legislature attempted to enact a subsequent congressional plan, but this plan was struck down by the state Supreme Court, on the grounds that the state constitution allows only one opportunity per decade, successful or unsuccessful, to redraw district lines. [People ex rel. Salazar v. Davidson , 79 P.3d 1221 (Colo. 2003); Beauprez v. Avalos, 42 P.3d 642 (Colo. 2002)]

For state legislative districts, the state’s commission enacted a plan struck down by the state Supreme Court, largely on equal population and county integrity grounds. The commission redrew state legislative plans on Feb. 7, 2002, and those plans were approved by the state Supreme Court. [In re Reapportionment of Colo. General Assembly, 46 P.3d 1083 (Colo. 2002); In re Reapportionment of Colo. General Assembly, 45 P.3d 1237 (Colo. 2002)]

Redistricting Cases in Colorado

Search all Colorado Cases >

Colorado | State Supreme | Process
In re Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission
Independent commission petitioned state supreme court to approve revised schedule
Last Updated Aug 2, 2021
Case Number

No. 2021SA208 (Colo. Sup. Ct.)

Cycle 2020
Colorado | State Supreme | Process
In Re Interrogatories on Senate Bill 21-247
State supreme court answers interrogatory request from Colorado general assembly
Last Updated Jun 1, 2021
Case Number

No. 21SA146 (Colo. Sup. Ct.)

Cycle 2020