Integrity of elections is at stake
DENVER – Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar has filed a suit against the state asking the Supreme Court to block a new congressional redistricting map and protect the constitutional rights of voters.
Salazar, a Democrat, has already said he won’t represent the state in any lawsuits filed as a result of the redistricting map. The new map was crafted by Republicans and introduced May 5. The Republican-
dominated Legislature approved the bill in the last three days of the session.
Democrats claim the Republicans approved the bill without public hearings or allowing others to make amendments to the bill. Three Democrats, including Sen. Maryanne Keller of Wheat Ridge, who voted against the bill in the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, filed a lawsuit last week. The suit contends the Republican actions were unconstitutional and asks the Supreme Court to reinstate the original congressional district boundaries.
Republicans say the Legislature – and only the Legislature – can draw up new congressional district maps after each Census.
“It was absolutely the right thing to do,” said Sen. Ken Chlouber, R-Leadville. “Urban Democrats complained that we limited public input. They complained we weren’t willing to compromise. They complained that this was a partisan power grab.”
Chlouber said that when Democrats controlled the Senate in 2001 and 2002, urban Democrats “refused to sit at an honest bargaining table, went shopping for a Denver judge and took the issue to court.
“He (the judge) didn’t draw his own map for Colorado, but while behind closed doors, he selected a map that was drawn by the Democratic State Party,” Chlouber said Wednesday. “They exploited their power in the Senate and clouded everything in secrecy – the epitome of a partisan power grab.”
Salazar said lawmakers didn’t have the right to redraw the maps after a district court judge did so last year.
“One of the responsibilities I have as attorney general is to represent the people of Colorado and the integrity of the election process in our state,” Salazar said.
The lawsuit names Secretary of State Donetta Davidson and asks the court to bar her from enforcing the new districts established when Gov. Bill Owens signed Senate Bill 352 into law last week. (Davidson is a Republican who was first appointed to the position by Owens in 1999 and elected again in November 2000.)
Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial, said Salazar is creating a conflict of interest by suing the state he is supposed to represent. Rep. Rob Fairbank, R-Littleton, who sponsored the bill in the House, said Salazar is using his office to pander to Democrats.
“I understand his political allegiance,” Fairbank said. “But it should be to the people of Colorado.”
For all the disarray into which the redistricting map has thrown Colorado’s legislators, it pales in comparison to similar goings-on in Texas. There, Democrats have fled the state to stall voting on a redistricting map. By leaving the state – Republicans have asked the Texas Rangers to arrest them and bring them back to the Capitol – Republicans don’t have a quorum and cannot vote on the issue.
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