Balance of Power on Congressional Redistricting & Legislative Reapportionment rests with Bender, Colorado Supreme Court

Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics.” (Military aphorism, variously attributed)

Translating from the military vernacular to the political, “amateurs” focus on short-term electoral gains (transitory shifts in legislative majorities or changes in who holds political office) while “professionals” focus on building long-term institutional and philosophical shifts – holding the “high ground” and winning the “hearts and minds” of the electorate by determining the terms of political discourse.

In Colorado this year, the elections with the greatest and most long-lasting implications for the future of the state were not the votes for legislative or executive office, but the once-in-a-decade opportunity to hold an increasingly powerful and expansive judicial branch accountable to the public and to their sworn duty to uphold the Colorado Constitution and the rule of law.

Unfortunately, the effort to educate Colorado voters to what was at stake fell short (despite achieving the greatest percentage of “NO” votes for incumbent state supreme court justices in Colorado history) due to insufficient resources to reach all of the states’ voters.

Among the most important near-term implications on the political front: the continued dominance of the judicial branch in determining the boundaries of Colorado’s state legislative and Congressional districts – with major implications for the future of the tenuous toehold of Republicans in the state legislature (merely gaining a meager one-member majority in a single chamber in what was otherwise a landslide year for the GOP nationwide).

Republicans in Colorado shot themselves in the foot by failing to realize and effectively mobilize resources to deal with this fact at the state level.

Interestingly, a recent Denver Post article continues their tradition of providing information of interest and relevance to the elections after the vote is held (and too late to actually influence the outcome).

The article (“Who holds the key on redistricting?“) published in The Spot political blog, educates the political “amateurs” with a summary of who truly holds the power in drawing the state legislative and congressional maps:

Conventional wisdom holds that Republicans gained a toehold in the looming 2011 redistricting battle by winning back the state House* last Tuesday.

While a House majority helps the GOP’s cause, the balance of redistricting power – particularly of state legislative districts – rests squarely with Democrats, should they choose to exercise it. That point was likely reaffirmed Wednesday, when Justice Michael Bender, a registered Democrat, was appointed Chief Justice.

The political “professionals” running the show for the “progressive” majority which continues to dominate Colorado politics (despite a public majority view that runs counter to that ideology in this state) once again outmaneuvered the amateurs on the “right” – putting resources where they could influence the longer-term big picture:

In 2001, when Dems held only a majority in the Senate, they knew the courts were their best alternative. The balance of the current high court – where five of seven members were appointed by Democratic governors – still appears to rest with Democrats…

In reapportioning state legislative districts (which was taken out of the hands of the legislature several years ago and handed to an appointed commission), the Democrat advantage (thanks to the recent elevation of partisan Democrat Michael Bender to the office of Chief Justice) is even more pronounced. The 11-member commission is appointed by the legislative branch (4 picks total, 2 from each side), the executive (governor picks 3) and the final (and decisive) 4 judicial branch appointments (chief justice).

(Injecting the chief justice into this inevitably political process is yet one more corrupting influence contributing to the increasing polarization and politicization of our judiciary in Colorado).

As the Post’s political editor Curtis Hubbard sums up:

Put simply: Democrats have the edge in the capitol and the courts on congressional redistricting, and have an overwhelming 9-2 advantage in appointing members to the committee that will oversee legislative redistricting.

Although Colorado voters failed to exercise their right to remove 3 politicized judicial incumbents from office via the ballot box this November, Citizens should insist upon (and legislators should implement) measures to remove the judicial branch from the corrupting position of influencing policy and politics in order to concentrate on their primary duty to defend the Constitution and uphold the rule of law.

The fight to reform Colorado’s corrupt legal/judicial complex continues.  Clear The Bench Colorado is working to hold the consortium of legal-establishment special-interest groups who attempted (and may have succeeded in) buying the election for their buddies on the bench accountable for violations of Colorado campaign finance law.  Longer term, Clear The Bench Colorado will work with legislators and others interested in reforming the systemic shortcomings of Colorado’s “merit selection & retention” system to increase transparency and accountability to the public.  For both of those endeavors, we would appreciate your continued support – via your comments (Sound Off!) and, yes, your contributions. Freedom isn’t free –nor is it always easy to be a Citizen, not a subject.

Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.

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