GOP bill proposes redistricting
DENVER – With three days left in the state legislative session, Republicans plan to introduce a bill today to redraw congressional district lines – a move Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald said is nothing short of a “political power grab.”
“The arrogance,” said Fitz-Gerald, who represents Summit County. “Trying to push something like this through without citizen participation. It’s an insult to voters.”
Two Republican legislators, who asked not to be identified, said the map a judge drew last year ago outlining the U.S. congressional districts is temporary, and that legislators can alter it at any time. Republican Rob Fairbank said the only reason the Legislature didn’t craft a map of its own was because Democrats wanted a judge to draw the map – which he called a a violation of the state constitution.
At the time, Democrats controlled the state Senate; today, Republicans have control over both chambers.
Lawmakers typically redraw congressional district boundaries after the release of the census to ensure each district has an equal distribution of residents. It is unusual for it to occur at other times.
Republicans drafted legislation in December to redraw the lines, said Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial.
“It is the Legislature’s job constitutionally to draw congressional districts,” Andrews said. “Republicans did everything in our power to compromise, but the Democrats stalled, and finally it wound up in the hands of a judge who drew the temporary districts. It’s our job to draw the lines and I would support it.”
The bill would set up five Republican congressional districts, with the 7th including parts of Adams and Arapahoe counties and all of Elbert County. The 6th would include southern Denver, the 5th would comprise El Paso and the southwestern counties, the 4th would include the Eastern Plains and the 3rd would include the Western Slope and part of Pueblo.
The two remaining districts – the 1st and the 2nd – would comprise the heavily Democratic counties of Denver and the mountain communities.
Democrats, however, said they believe Republicans are supporting the bill to protect the boundaries of the 7th Congressional District, represented by Republican Bob Beauprez. He won the election there last year by a scant 121 votes. The 7th District, in suburban Denver, is evenly divided among Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters.
The map would also add more Republican voters to the 3rd Congressional District, making it more difficult for a Western Slope Democrat to secure a seat in Washington, D.C.
The proposal would also remove Pitkin County – a primarily Democratic county – from the 3rd Congressional District and place it in the 2nd district with other Democratic counties, including Summit County.
Such maneuvering also could ensure the Republicans 5-2 hold on Colorado’s congressional seats.
Democrats, however, aren’t taking it lightly. Some have said they plan to filibuster the last three days of the session to prevent Republicans from introducing the bill.
That could complicate legislators’ efforts to finish working on major issues, including health care and automobile insurance reform and water legislation.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or email@example.com.
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