Supreme Court made the right redistricting decision |

Supreme Court made the right redistricting decision

When the Colorado Supreme Court threw out the Legislature’s recently passed congressional redistricting map, it did Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley a big favor.

Not only was the plan a clear attempt by the Republican-dominated Legislature to secure control of congressional seats for its party, it was just plain geographically awkward.

Currently, the 3rd Congressional District appropriately encompasses much of rural southern and western Colorado. Despite the political differences between towns like Cortez, Pueblo, Aspen, Telluride and Meeker, such communities have many of the same interests when it comes to big-ticket issues like water, agriculture and wildlife management.

They should be represented by the same person in Congress, at least until population growth justifies the creation of a new district on the Western Slope.

The GOP plan would have placed Democratic-leaning Pitkin County in the same district as Front Range counties including Boulder, Adams and Jefferson. To connect those far-flung dots, the legislative map-makers stretched the 2nd Congressional District over the Continental Divide to encompass Summit, Eagle and finally Pitkin County.

By placing Pitkin County in the solidly Democratic 2nd District, represented by Mark Udall of Boulder, the plan would have improved Republican chances of retaining the 3rd District, which is up for grabs next fall. It would have also dramatically improved the GOP’s chances of retaining the 7th District, which it won in 2002 by just 121 votes.

But the state’s high court threw out the plan, which had been approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Bill Owens, citing the state constitution’s requirement that redistricting occur once every 10 years, after the U.S. Census is complete.

Republicans say redistricting is a legislative duty, and that it was a judge, not elected representatives, who drew the congressional map still in effect. They claim they were simply meeting their obligation by redrawing the lines. But the fact is the Legislature had its chance in 2000 and 2001, but failed to reach agreement because Democrats controlled the state Senate.

The current congressional map makes for two solidly Democratic districts, three solidly Republican districts, and two highly competitive districts. That sounds like a fairly representative map.

And besides, voters in Aspen, Meeker and Pueblo deserve to be represented by one of their own ” a rural Colorado resident who, regardless of party affiliation, understands our issues. In the end, that’s a better fit for Pitkin County than an urban Democrat whose seat in the U.S. Congress is assured by Front Range constituents.

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