New Maps Renew Focus on Colorado Congressional Redistricting Court Battle

The unveiling of new map proposals by Democrat and Republican parties over the last few days has renewed focus on the legal battle to determine the boundaries of Colorado’s Congressional districts, since the legislature (specifically the state senate) failed to do its job by passing redistricting legislation as required by the Colorado Constitution and sent it to the courts for the fourth consecutive decade at the end of the legislative session in May) .

Republicans were first to file their proposed Congressional district map in court (on Friday); interestingly, it makes few changes from the map drawn by the courts (in violation of Colorado’s clear constitutional language assigning responsibility for Congressional redistricting to the General Assembly) a decade ago.

…under the GOP map, Baca County on the southeastern border is the only entire county to moved into another district. …

The GOP also said the map “moves the “absolute fewest number of Coloradans” possible in order to accomodate (sic) population shifts in the last decade, according to court records.

On Monday, the Democrats filed their map with the court – which “proposed dramatic changes to Colorado’s congressional boundaries.”  As noted in the Denver Post’s article, the most radical changes would be to the 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Mike Coffman, moving the district significantly northward to include all of Aurora, dividing the western half of both Arapahoe and Adams counties and extending into Weld County, and moving Douglas and Elbert counties to the 4th Congressional District (currently represented by freshman Republican Cory Gardner), which would lose most of Larimer County to the 2nd Congressional District (represented by Democrat Jared Polis).

The 7th Congressional District (represented by Democrat Ed Perlmutter) would shift west to include the north-metro suburbs in western Adams County (which would thus be split between three different congressional districts) and the west-metro suburbs of northeastern Jefferson County (which would be split between two congressional districts, with the remainder in the 2nd District along with Boulder).

View maps here.

Neither set of maps seems ideal (the GOP map’s perpetuation of the unsightly court-created 7th CD “claw” around the northern metro Denver area remains troublesome); it remains to be seen whether the courts will strictly adhere to the constitutional criteria guiding the boundaries of legislative districts, according to established precedent, or if they’ll be swayed by more “non-neutral” political considerations (such as those enacted under the “Mary-mandering” legislation passed at the conclusion of the 2010 legislative session).

The “Hobbs Hierarchy” should be the decisive criteria for evaluating the constitutionality of Colorado’s Congressional and legislative districts; in priority order:

  • Equal population (U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment, Equal Protection one person/one vote)
  • Maintain County boundaries intact unless necessary to achieve equal population (Colorado Constitution Art. V, Section 47(2))
  • Maintain municipal boundaries intact unless necessary to achieve equal population (Colorado Constitution Art. V, Section 47(2))
  • Districts must be as compact as possible and composed of contiguous election precincts (Colorado Constitution Art. V, Section 47(1))
  • Communities of interest – ethnic, economic, cultural, demographic, trade area and geographic – shall be preserved within a single district wherever possible. (Art. V, Section 47(3))

In any event, the case (combined cases, actually) bears careful watching as it plays out in court.

Additional references:

  • Constitutional Provisions Controlling Reapportionment/Redistricting (official Colorado state website, which collates relevant constitutional language on Congressional redistricting and state legislative reapportionment)
  • Redistricting in Colorado (Ballotpedia site – although the site contains several errors, some of which are being corrected, it does provide useful context and historical background on past restricting battles.  As with any Wiki site – contributions come from a variety of sources and are frequently edited – proceed with some skepticism)

Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of an unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts.  We will continue to work to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive evaluations of judicial performance.

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