home guest columnist archives about us contact us
“Seventh Seat”

After a decade of dealing with the problems of being the fifth-fastest growing state, Colorado has something to show for it: a new congressional seat. The change comes after Colorado added 1 million residents (from 3.3 million in 1990 to 4.3 million in 2000). Colorado joins seven other states in picking up a total of twelve seats.

Twelve Seats Shift from Northeast and Midwest to West and South

Gained Two Seats Gained One Seat
Arizona California
Florida Colorado
Georgia Nevada
Texas North Carolina
Ciruli Associates, 2001

Reapportionments shifts primarily went from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West. Several of the gains and losses were by a few thousand residents. Utah missed gaining a seat by 856 residents. California only received 1 seat. Had it failed to gain a seat it would have been the first time since 1850. Georgia gained a seat due to an extra effort to get a full census count. North Carolina’s new seat is attributed to allowing non-resident military and federal civilian employees to be counted in state totals.

Colorado’s New Congressional District

Due to the slow down in population growth in the mid 1980s Colorado did not add a seat after the 1990 census. And it was close to the cut off for a new seat this year. Nationally, a new seat followed the addition of 645,00 residents; in Colorado that figure is closer to 614,000 residents.

Colorado Reapportionment
Year No. of Districts
1960s 4
1970s 5
1980s 6
1990s 6
2000s 7
Ciruli Associates, 2001

The boundaries of Colorado’s current 6 districts have not changed significantly since they were set after the 1980 census. Denver dominates the 1st Congressional District, as does Boulder County in the 2nd District and El Paso County in the 5th District. Pueblo County shares a district with the western slope. The newest district, the 6th, was fashioned out of Arapahoe, North Douglas and South Jefferson County.

The six current districts will need to be adjusted. Adding the seventh seat will cause a major reconfiguration of the lines in the rapidly growing south metro area. Depending on where the lines are drawn, Senator John Andrews and John Evans and State Treasurer Mike Coffman could be in contention with innumerable mayors and county commissioners.

There are several factors that influence design of congressional districts. Protecting incumbents is the first imperative. Legislators and the governor – the primary players in congressional redesign – attempt to protect their party’s incumbents. The next major criteria politicians consider is partisanship and the ability to gain advantage in a district. Other factors, such as maintaining communities of interest (for example not dividing Denver or Pueblo, and maintaining racial and ethnic balances) enter the calculations.

The Governor has proposed a special legislative session this summer to draw the lines. If the process gridlocks, the federal courts will draw the lines as they have several times since the 1960s.

[top] [archives] [home] [send this page to a friend]