Colorado Supreme Court to rule on redistricting later this fall
DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court will rule later this fall on a case in which Democrats have asked to throw out a Republican-crafted redistricting map and reinstate one drawn by a court last year.
The judges heard two cases Monday, one brought by Attorney General Ken Salazar that challenges the constitutionality of redistricting more than once every 10 years, and another brought by Secretary of State Donetta Davidson asking the court to dismiss Salazar’s request to bar her from using the new map.
Attorneys also questioned whether Salazar has the authority to sue an executive branch agency in the state’s highest court.
The issue came to a head after the 2000 census, when state legislators were required to redraw federal congressional boundaries to reflect changing demographics in their states.
A dramatic population increase required that Colorado add a seventh district, but state legislators couldn’t come to a decision regarding new boundaries, so a judge drew a map.
Following the elections, however, the Republicans won the majority in the state legislature and redrew the congressional boundaries. They maintain drawing new maps is up to lawmakers, not judges.
The Republican-drawn map moved 27,000 Republicans into the 7th District in Denver’s north and west suburbs and solidified Democratic majorities in two other districts. The map also moved 135,000 voters in the 3rd District on Colorado’s Western Slope. The changes would make it difficult, at best, for Democrats to win a federal seat in most of Colorado’s congressional districts.
The district garnering the most scrutiny is the 7th District, which was originally fairly evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters. The new map, however, moved more Republicans into the district, making it a fifth Republican stronghold among the state’s seven districts.
Republicans now hold five of the seven congressional seats from Colorado.
Saying that the Republicans can’t arbitrarily redraw the judge’s map, Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar then filed a lawsuit to block its implementation.
Politicians throughout the nation are watching the case with interest, as it could set precedent in other states, notably Texas, that are undergoing similar disputes. Twenty other state legislatures are led by one party and could consider changing their congressional boundaries to strengthen one party or the other in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., announced over the weekend that he won’t seek a seventh term in office, further complicating the issue.
State Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, said the map beefs up Republican votes in McInnis’ 3rd Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, who represents Summit County in the 2nd District, said he has high hopes for the judge’s ruling.
“This is a historic day,” Udall said. “I believe it will lead to a historic decision in that you can only draw congressional districts once a decade. It’s really about doing the right thing. We can play games in this state or we can play fair. That’s what this boils down to.”
The court could either uphold the new map or reinstate the first one, or judges could decide the case doesn’t belong in the Supreme Court.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or
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