Denver Government

Denver City Council Will Vote on Final Redistricting Map on March 29

The Denver City and County Building.
The Denver City and County Building. Brandon Marshall
As the conclusion of a redistricting process that began in summer 2020, on March 29 Denver City Council will vote on whether to approve a final map, Map D, that will determine council districts starting in the April 2023 election.

"While no one got everything they wanted, Map D is the result of lots of community feedback and compromise. I want to thank the community and my colleagues for an intensive and inclusive process," says Councilman Chris Hinds, one of six co-sponsors of Map D.

Council conducts a redistricting process every decade after the U.S. Census results are released; the new districts reflect changes in population size as well as other considerations. According to current U.S. Census data, the population of Denver increased from 600,158 in 2010 to 715,522 in 2020. District populations are supposed to be within 10 percent of about 65,000 constituents; according to city charter rules, the districts must also be as compact as possible and contain contiguous territory. Denver has eleven districts, each represented by one councilmember, as well as two at-large reps.

After starting with six council-proposed maps, council winnowed down the options and voted 11 to 2 in favor of Map D on March 21, with only Councilwoman Jamie Torres and Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca opposing the proposal. The March 29 vote is the second and final vote for the map.

Map D will create some major changes in constituent representation on Denver City Council.

One of the biggest will be moving an area of downtown from District 9, which is currently represented by CdeBaca, to District 10, which is represented by Hinds. At the same time, District 9 will gain North Park Hill and South Park Hill from District 8, which is represented by term-limited Councilman Chris Herndon.

District 10 will lose neighborhoods in the south of the district, such as Cherry Creek and Country Club, with those moving over to District 5, which Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer currently represents. And the East Colfax neighborhood now split between Districts 5 and 8 will move entirely into District 8. East Colfax neighborhood advocates have pushed to get all of East Colfax and its diverse residents into the same district as Northeast Park Hill and part of Montbello so the neighborhoods can advocate jointly on shared issues such as gentrification and displacement.
click to enlarge Map D will be the new council district map going forward. - DENVER CITY COUNCIL
Map D will be the new council district map going forward.
Denver City Council
CdeBaca had also proposed a map, which she touted for making 9 a majority-minority district.

"We did not achieve that in any of the other maps, so I just wanted to make sure that history recalls on the record that this map was introduced and it was voted down and we did forfeit that majority-minority district at a time when minorities in this city are being displaced rapidly," CdeBaca said during the March 21 council meeting.

CdeBaca's map would have removed some incumbents from their current districts, which other councilmembers sought to avoid.

Torres, who'd also proposed her own map, opposed Map D, noting that its sponsors did not make any significant changes even after receiving input from community members. "I don’t understand how we can go out and ask community for their feedback and then not reflect it in modified maps," Torres says.

With the map settled, more candidates are likely to start declaring for the Denver City Council races in April 2023. Like Herndon, at-large councilmembers Debbie Ortega and Robin Kniech are term-limited and cannot run for re-election. Councilwoman Kendra Black, who represents far southeast Denver in District 2, has already announced that she will not run for re-election. But aside from Black, all of the other incumbents who are eligible for another term have indicated or announced that they're running for re-election.

Even after the map is settled, council will continue to discuss redistricting. Torres wants to explore the option of asking voters to approve a charter change that would expand Denver from eleven to thirteen districts. "Adding two more would definitely change our district boundaries, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing," she says. "I think we can be better served with slightly smaller districts."

Council could also consider establishing an independent redistricting committee for the next redistricting process. Voters approved Colorado using an independent committee for its recent congressional and legislative redistricting process, and some members of the public have been asking for a similar setup in Denver.

But first, Map D must be formally approved. Since Monday is César Chávez Day, an official holiday in Denver, the council meeting has been moved to Tuesday, March 29.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.