Colorado lawmakers lock horns on redistricting
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – A process considered the most political in government – redistricting – lived up to its billing Wednesday in Colorado as a bipartisan panel of state lawmakers worked into the night to draw new congressional lines, then gave up before meeting a self-imposed deadline.
Republicans and Democrats were far apart on plans to redraw the state’s seven districts as required after every census.
Democrats said they generally want to make congressional races more competitive, so that Democrats and Republicans both have a chance.
“One of the issues with government today is that people don’t have to run” because districts are generally safe for one party or the other, said Sen. Rollie Heath, the top Democrat on the panel.
But Democratic plans would mean big changes to the state’s current districts, creating districts that bisect Colorado east to west instead of north to south. Republicans have suggested maps that stick closer to the current district makeup. The GOP argues that the state’s sparsely populated Western Slope and Eastern Plains would lose if they’re joined with urban and suburban neighbors.
Republican Rep. Don Coram of Montrose argued that the Democratic plan would water down the influence of his home turf.
“Most of the time I try to be a house cat, but when it comes to losing the voice of rural Colorado, I certainly try to become a tiger,” Coram said.
The two parties also disagree on fast-growing suburban Denver. The area currently has two districts, one heavily Republican and one that has turned Democratic. Both parties are trying to edge their chances in those areas.
After hours of partisan bickering, Democrats and Republicans agreed to disagree and keep negotiating.
“Sitting here all night and not getting anything done is really hard” on both lawmakers and the public trying to follow along, said Democratic Rep. Ed Vigil of Alamosa.
The two sides agreed to give up hope on meeting an April 21 goal to have an agreement. The negotiators planned to take the Easter holiday off and try again next week on a compromise map.
If past rounds are any guide, lawmakers may be trying in vain. Colorado’s congressional maps have been settled in court, not the Legislature, for at least three decades.
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