Colorado Could Adopt Independent Redistricting to End Gerrymandering
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by Countable | 10.26.18
What the Referendum Does
Amendment Y would amend the Colorado Constitution create a 12-member commission responsible for approving district maps for the state’s congressional districts. A final congressional map would require the approval of eight of the 12 members, including at least two members that aren’t affiliated with any political party, as well as the approval of the Colorado Supreme Court.
Under this amendment, districts would need to be competitive, meaning they’d have reasonable potential to change parties at least once every ten years.
Gerrymandering prevents competitive, fair elections and dilutes the power of individuals’ votes. As such, it should be explicitly prohibited in order to prevent any political party from attempting to draw voting districts in their own favor.
The 12-member commission proposed in this amendment would be disproportionately tilted in favor of Democrats, as retired state judges — who are overwhelmingly Democratic appointees — would name the members of the commission.
Fair Maps Colorado is leading the campaign in support of Amendment Y with the support of Our Revolution, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Pro 15, and the League of Women Voters of Colorado. Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) are among the highest-profile politicians who also support Amendment Y. Fair Maps Colorado’s campaign co-chair, Joe Zimlick, says in support of this measure:
“Regardless of what you believe — that Colorado is gerrymandered or not — almost everyone agrees it's good public policy to explicitly prohibit gerrymandering. Almost everyone in our state, far higher than anywhere else, acknowledges that gerrymandering is a national crisis or a national issue. So preventing that in Colorado is important.”
State Sens. Stephen Fenberg (D-18) and Kevin Grantham (R-2), who are the cosponsors of this amendment, explained in a Denver Post column that drawing congressional and legislative districts has historically been divisine in Colorado, and argue that the state’s citizens deserve better:
“Colorado’s existing systems for drawing those maps (known as redistricting and reapportionment) are controlled by elected officials and political appointees. The status quo has resulted in oftentimes divided affairs that have lacked transparency, protected incumbents and led to charges of back-room dealing. And the hard-fought process has created a small number of competitive seats in a state that is near-evenly divided between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. But all Coloradans deserve a fairer and more transparent process for drawing district boundaries. And all Coloradans deserve effective representation where politicians have to work to earn the support of every voter in his or her district. With a new Census around the corner and dramatic growth set to give Colorado an eighth Congressional seat by 2022, now is the time to address the problems in our existing system.”
13 Issues, also known as the “State Ballot Issue Committee,” is leading the campaign against Amendment Y. Douglas Bruce, head of the 13 Issues committee, argues that this amendment is overly tilted towards Democrats:
“[Amendments] Y and Z offer a stacked commission of 12 members — four Dem, four GOP, and four unaffiliated. It flatly bans civic involvement by minor party members. Y and Z schemers leave selection of “neutral” commissioners to retired state judges. Instead of random drawings of applicants, judges will pick whom they like. Democrat governors have named judges 36 of the last 44 years. The pool of judges for this task is highly liberal and totally unaccountable. To solidify political power, Y and Z inject another term — “communities of interest.” That slogan lets improper considerations of race, ethnicity, and other factors override neutral principles. What party uses identity politics? Ask Hillary. Commission members are stooges because legislative staff draws the maps. Staff, called non-partisan because not elected, is chosen by partisan legislators. Politicians still decide who decides.
Amendment Y was referred to Colorado voters through unanimous votes by both chambers of the state legislature.
This amendment came to be through a compromise between Fair Districts Colorado and progressive, left-leaning group People Not Politicians, who were each proposing their own redistricting measures.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com /JasonDoiy)
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