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County unveils plan for new district boundaries

With little discussion, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners moved one step closer to redrawing the lines that establish the three local commissioner districts.

Three audience members attended the 20-minute June 2 meeting that introduced the recommended new alignment of districts, which, if approved, would move more than 900 county residents to a new district.

Per C.R.S. 30-10-306, counties are to be divided into three compact districts by the BoCC, with each district being as equal in population as possible, based on the most recent federal census of the United States.

Following the release of 2010 Census data, it was discovered that Archuleta County’s districts were not as equal as they should be, with a discrepancy in District 3 of 1,300 people.

If left untouched following the 2010 Census, the population total for each district would be as follows: District 1 would be 4,542, District 2 would be 4,438 and District 3 would be 3,104.

County IT staff, working with Clerk and Recorder June Madrid, worked to realign the districts using natural boundaries, bringing the county into an alignment that Madrid said she believes is probably the closest to equal as it has ever been.

In the move, a portion of District 1 is moved into District 3, consisting of about 918 people. A portion of Precinct 7 along Cloud Cap Avenue and Glade Drive is then moved into District 1, consisting of approximately 403 people.

The realignment moves the previous boundary line of Fourmile Road to Piedra Road.

Following the proposed realignment, District 1 would contain 4,042 people, District 2 would hold 3,996 and the total population in District 3 would be 4,045.

After first questioning why the BoCC was contemplating the realignment in June when statute afforded the BoCC until September, audience member John Bozek began to question the political ramifications of the move in terms of moving voters to a new district.

According to Madrid, the process is not based on the number of voters, but on population and information concerning the effect on political parties would not be known until the “locator lines” were moved in the county’s computer system.

Later, Madrid added that although districts are not based on the number of active voters, precincts within each district are.

According to a handout provided by Madrid, the total number of registered voters at the time of the realignment work was 9,440 and, compared with the Census population of 12,084, it appeared that inactive voters (those who failed to vote in the last election or had mail returned by the post office) had moved from the area.

According to current voter totals, District 1 would contain 3,431 voters (2,078 active), District 2 would hold 3,456 voters (2,063 active) and District 3 would contain 2,553 voters (1,663 active).

Bozek said he would wait to comment on the possible realignment until the political party numbers for the districts were calculated.

Following further discussion about what political shift threshold would trigger concern for Bozek, County Attorney Todd Starr, participating via conference call, cautioned the commissioners from speculating about the future and political ramifications, noting that the decision would need to be made based on the facts presented.

Commissioner Steve Wadley noted the process had been “kept at arm’s length” and had not involved the commissioners or any concern of who might be running for commissioner in future elections.

Commissioner Michael Whiting posed the question, “Do we consider political shifts or just population?” to which Starr responded that statute doesn’t account for politics, but solely area and population.

At the meeting, County Administrator Greg Schulte said he anticipated the realignment would come before the commissioners for a decision in July.

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