Colorado Reapportionment Commission ‘Minority Report’ filed as challenge to legislative district maps in Colorado Supreme Court

The Colorado Reapportionment Commission (charged with drawing our state legislative districts) officially submitted state legislative district maps rammed through on a party-line vote last week (6-5, with technically unaffiliated Chairman Mario Carrera joining the commission’s other Democrats) to the Colorado Supreme Court for review late Monday (6 December).

The Colorado Supreme Court, upon receiving the commission’s resubmitted maps, quickly announced accelerated filing deadlines for the inevitable legal challenges to the maps, putting appeals on a very tight timeline.  A total of eighteen groups filed briefs by the 5:00PM Thursday deadline (exceeding the dozen briefs, including eleven challenges, filed against the commission’s previously submitted mapsmaps ultimately rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court for failure to meet Colorado’s constitutional requirements).

UPDATE:

The “minority” commissioners on the Colorado Reapportionment Commission – denied a fair procedural hearing and opportunity to discuss changes, submit amendments, or even file a dissenting ‘Minority Report’ (per standard practice in past commissions) as part of the commission’s official resubmission of state legislative district maps – filed their ‘Minority Report’ as a separate legal challenge to the “official” commission maps just prior to the filing deadline yesterday.

The fact that the commission’s minority was actually forced by the Democrat majority (including officially unaffiliated chairman Mario Carrera) to file their Statement of Opposition to the re-submitted maps as a legal challenge highlights the procedurally deficient path by which the maps were rammed through the commission, as well as remaining constitutional deficiencies in the re-submitted maps:

The intentional actions of the six-member majority created an irrevocably flawed process that led to adoption of unconstitutional maps

The commissioners’ ‘Minority Report’ filing also presents alternate maps for both House and Senate that better meet constitutional criteria and non-constitutional factors, including:

  • fewer county splits
  • fewer city splits
  • better preservation of communities of interest
  • better “competitiveness” (as a whole, and by district)
  • avoiding incumbent same-district pairings
  • avoiding unconstitutional sequencing of senate district elections

As a remedy to both the procedural failings of the commission’s adoption of the re-submitted maps, and the constitutional deficiencies of the maps themselves, the ‘Minority Report’ challenge urges the Colorado Supreme Court to adopt the alternate maps submitted as the most appropriate and timely remedy – for which there is precedent (“In re Reapportionment 1982, 647 P.2d 209, 213 (Colo. 1982).”)

Because the Court is not presented with plans that are “each consistent with the constitutional requirements,” it is not faced with a choice between alternative, competing maps.  Instead, because it is left with only one set of maps consistent with the constitutional criteria, a set drawn by members of the Commission, it is appropriate for the Court to [order] adoption of those alternate maps.

BOTTOM LINE:

The resubmitted maps retain a veritable plethora of constitutional deficiencies (in particular, failing to achieve the minimal splits in county lines, which was the primary rationale for the court’s rejection of the commission’s previous maps).  Municipal (city) splits were also multiplied, districts were not drawn to be as “compact and contiguous” as possible, and communities of interest were ignored or broken up. Additionally, the pairing of multiple incumbents into the same district raises additional constitutional issues – and one just-discovered “glitch” (”Glitch in new Colorado legislative map could unseat senator“) in the maps would result in “essentially airbrushing [State Senator Tim Neville] from the Senate after he serves next session.”

The ‘Minority Report’ challenge ably deconstructs the constitutional deficiencies of the commission’s re-submitted maps, and presents an alternative set of maps which better meet constitutional criteria (urging the adoption of the alternate maps by court order, per precedent established under similar circumstances several decades ago, as the best and most timely option).

Particularly given the more centrist makeup of the current Colorado Supreme Court (following the departure of former Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey & the more recent resignation of Justice Alex Martinez, replaced with Justices Monica Marquez and Brian Boatright, who just assumed his seat last week), the court would seem likely to order the adoption of the more constitutionally-consistent ‘Minority Report’ map over the ratification of a set of legislative maps seemingly designed “out of spite” and apparently “calculated to antagonize the court.

In any event – we expect that the Colorado Supreme Court’s reply will not be long in waiting.

Additional references:

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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