“Mary-mandering” bill advances; Legislature abdicates power to draw up Congressional districts to the courts
“No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” — Mark Twain (1866)
The Colorado Legislature is still in session – so our lives, liberty, and property (and our Constitution) remain under threat. In a bizarre twist in Colorado Politics, the General Assembly today moved towards abdicating its constitutional role in drawing up our Congressional districts by advancing a bill to allow courts to draw up those districts as they see fit, removing guidelines enacted in response to the last example of “Mary-mandering” (er, judicial redistricting) which produced the strangely-configured 7th Congressional District (appearing like a claw reaching around the north end of metro Denver).
The bill (HB10-1408 Repeal Congressional Districting Criteria) would remove from state law several factors designed to ensure fair and impartial review by courts concerning legislative district boundaries. Although the bill passed out of committee does preserve some of the factors (such as equal population size, compactness, keeping cities & counties intact and seeking to maintain “communities of interest”) from the earlier legislation it seeks to repeal, which was designed to prevent the courts just doing whatever they pleased if the state legislature fails (or is blocked) in its constitutional duty to create a congressional districting plan – the bill advancing out of committee (on a 7-3 vote, with one Republican, Rep. Carole Murray (HD-45) voting with the Democrat majority)
eliminates language in current law that says courts cannot consider “non-neutral” factors that include “political party registration, political party election performance and other factors that invite the court to speculate about the outcome of an election.”
The (Democrat) sponsor(s) and supporters of the bill maintain that allowing consideration of “non-neutral” factors is needed to promote “political competitiveness” (a criterion invented by the Colorado Supreme Court in justifying their usurpation of legislative power in the Salazar v. Davidson redistricting case in 2003).
However, using “non-neutral” factors such as political affiliation constitutes the textbook definition of gerrymandering:
Republicans called Weissmann’s bill a Democratic gerrymandering effort that was taking neutral factors out of the law. They said that state court judges, especially those on the Colorado Supreme Court, have been partisan for the benefit of Democrats.
“We would all like to depoliticize the process,” said Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs. “This is a political process not only in the legislature, but I also believe it becomes a partisan political process in the courts as well.”
The bill – by virtue of advancing the use of the courts to advance a particular political agenda and deliberately modify legislative boundaries for electoral purposes – is setting the stage for the next round of “Mary-mandering” following the 2010 Census (and 2011 Congressional redistricting that will follow) in expectation of the Democrats losing their majority in one or both chambers of the Colorado General Assembly and following the same blocking tactics that prevented the Legislature from carrying out its constitutional responsibility and sent redistricting to the courts following the last Census.
Coupled with the Colorado Supreme Court’s dominant role in state-level reapportionment of legislative districts, anyone with a modicum of political savvy can see that the MOST important elections on the ballot this year – the four MOST important votes that Colorado citizens can cast in this pivotal election – are “NO” votes on the four unjust justices of the Colorado Supreme Court who are seeking retention in office for another 10-year term.
Don’t let the courts “Mary-mander” away your rights to fair representation – exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the 4 ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority” (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who needYOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from against eminent domain abuse, your right to fair representation in government, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.” Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions – and vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices on the bench for another 10-year term!