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Colorado’s Black Caucus has big concerns about redistricting maps

Recently preliminary redistricting maps were released for Colorado’s state House and Senate. Though we have been assured that these maps will change over time, the approach used to draw the new lines is deeply troubling.

In many of the new districts, communities of color have been broken apart to diminish our voting power for no discernable reason other than arbitrary road-based divisions that mean nothing to voters.

For example, the current House District 8 has been split down the middle in the new maps, separating the historic Five Points neighborhood from North Park Hill. Both of the new districts, house districts 4 and 6, will have a lower percent Black population, effectively diluting our voting strength and making it more difficult to get Black representation in the state House.

House District 8 has historical significance to Colorado. The first Black representation came out of the district. That representation brought our state major advancements in civil rights from the formal recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to police reform.

Similarly, Aurora House and Senate lines have been reconfigured in ways that may reduce the chances of Black members getting elected to the Colorado General Assembly. In El Paso County, the African American population is fractured between four House districts and three Senate districts.

According to the Colorado Sun, a redistricting commission advising attorney, Jeremiah Barry, acknowledged that the maps were drawn with the knowledge they would dilute minority voting power, reducing majority Hispanic House districts from seven to three.

The process of splitting minority communities into separate districts, a tactic known as “cracking” during gerrymander attempts, has long been used to prevent adequate representation from minorities in legislative bodies around the country. Dramatically redrawing Colorado’s current districts, rather than expanding or contracting current borders based on population changes, needs to have a strong justification. One that is lacking here.

As reported during this last session prejudice still runs rampant. The Black caucus as an entity is a multigenerational group spanning in age and experience from members who lived during Jim Crow to those born during The New Jim Crow. Our voice is a vital voice for freedom. To see it diluted is an affront to centuries of hard work and activism to not just be seen and heard, but to be at the table when determining our community’s fate.

These “starting place” maps should be tossed out and the commission should start with the current Colorado House and Senate lines, which have previously been approved by the Colorado Supreme Court. There is no justification for dramatically reducing Black and other minority voting power across the board.

Leslie Herod represents Colorado House District 8 and is the chairwoman of the Colorado Black Legislative Caucus. Jennifer Bacon represents Colorado House District 7 and is a voting rights attorney.

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