Government & Politics  October 24, 2023

Weld sued over commission redistricting map

GREELEY – The League of Women Voters of Greeley and Weld County, along with the Latino Coalition of Weld County and two Weld County residents, are suing the Weld County Board of Commissioners and its five members, alleging that the panel improperly drew commissioner district lines.

In the lawsuit, filed Monday in Weld County District Court, the plaintiffs allege that the commissioners acted in violation of state House Bill 21-1047 by not providing proper public notice of hearings on the redistricting process and by improperly drawing a map that divided a community of interest. The map the commissioners drew divided the city of Greeley, which is 40% Latino, into three separate districts.

Weld County as a whole is about 30% Latino.

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According to the state law, “As much as is reasonably possible, the commission’s plan must preserve whole communities of interest and whole political subdivisions, such as cities and towns; except that a division of such city or town is permitted where, based on a preponderance of evidence in the record, a community of interest’s legislative issues are more essential to the fair and effective representation of residents of the district. When the commission divides a city or town, it shall minimize the number of divisions of that city or town.”

The lawsuit states that Weld County Attorney Bruce Barker had said the county didn’t have to follow the state law because of its status as a “home rule” county governed by its own charter, and that home-rule counties weren’t specifically named in the 2021 bill.

The lawsuit disputes Barker’s stance, alleging that “the County of Weld is required by law to carry out the same statutory function and responsibilities required of every other county in the state.”

Neither representatives for the plaintiffs nor Weld County officials returned calls seeking comment in time for BizWest’s afternoon deadline.

The proposed map was initially presented to commissioners on Jan. 23 during a public work session in which no residents were present, and the lawsuit contends that improper notice of the hearing was given. The map was then approved during the panel’s regular meeting March 1.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that the 2021 law does apply to Weld County and order it to draw new commissioner district maps for the 2024 election.

The case is League of Women Voters of Greeley Weld County, Latino Coalition of Weld County, Barbara Whinery and Stacy Suniga, plaintiffs, v. Weld County Board of County Commissioners, Kevin Ross, Mike Freeman, Perry Buck, Scott James and Lori Saine. Case No. 2023cv30834 in Weld County District Court.

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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