Colorado lawmakers hope to avoid redistricting fiasco
December 30, 2010
DENVER – Colorado’s legislative leaders, hoping to avoid another redistricting fiasco like the one 10 years ago that ended up in court, are taking a new approach this time.
On Thursday, they appointed a 10-member legislative committee of five Democrats and five Republicans to tour the state and get opinions from voters on the most important issues facing their congressional districts for the next 10 years.
House Speaker-designee Frank McNulty said legislative leaders want to avoid the partisan battle in the last go-around. That fight lasted seven years.
Sen. Rollie Heath, a Democrat from Boulder appointed to the committee, said there was a risk that both parties will not agree on a new map and use facts they gather during the hearings for their own political advantage.
“If it turns into nothing but fact-finding, we haven’t lost anything,” Heath said.
Republican Rep.-elect Don Coram from Montrose, a freshman, said it’s important for rural areas to consider interests they share with other counties. He said rural counties have been left behind by the federal government on issues like economic development.
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Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, said she believes the Front Range currently has too much influence in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes most of the Western Slope.
Democratic Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper said this month he didn’t think the process should be a political one.
“The more competitive a district is, the more meaningful the vote is to voters,” he said.
The process of drawing those lines starts in the Legislature but Hickenlooper can veto any plan he doesn’t like.
Lawmakers must redraw the boundaries of congressional districts every 10 years based on population growth and lawmakers usually worry about drawing the lines to include communities that will support their parties’ candidates to ensure safe victories.
The last time around, the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled house couldn’t agree on a new congressional map that included a new 7th District awarded by the 2000 census.
In 2002, a Denver District Court judge drew his own congressional map, saying lawmakers failed to do their jobs. But the following year, Republicans gained control of the Senate and rejected the judge’s map. They drew their own, saying the state constitution gave the responsibility to the Legislature.
The state Supreme Court upheld the district judge’s plan. A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal.
Other state senators on the committee include Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora; Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray; and Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker.
Serving on the committee from the House will be Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial; Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland; Rep.-elect Dan Pabon, D-Denver; and Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland.