Republicans did not meet goal of fair and effective representation
State Sen. Mark Hillman’s assertion that the recent redistricting by our Legislature is an honorable fulfillment of its constitutional duty is sheer poppycock.
And the 11th hour wrangling of Colorado’s 3rd and 7th Congressional Districts to favor the Republican Party during the next election was carried out with all the clumsy skill of a
At a different time, in a different context, the Republican Party actions of this state might be written off as simple political strife. But at a time when Colorado is so politically and fiscally vulnerable, it verges on, at the least, recklessness and, in my opinion, negligence.
In publishing the opinion column, the Summit Daily News edited (read deleted) from Hillman’s version an important paragraph referring to Article V, Section 44 of the Colorado Constitution as the basis for the redistricting efforts of the Republicans.
The full text is available on his Web site and the pertinent paragraph reads:
“The General Assembly shall divide the state into as many congressional districts as there are representatives in Congress apportioned to this state by the Congress of the United States for the election of one representative to Congress from each district. When a new apportionment shall be made by Congress, the General Assembly shall divide the state into congressional districts accordingly.”
Dissatisfied with Judge John Coughlin of the Denver District Court and his even-handed apportionment of the new 7th District (remember the close election Republican Bob Beauprez eventually won), Republican operatives approved legislation (they considered it their duty) which gives the party a considerable margin over any contender.
Certainly their political arena is a democracy and the votes of 2004 have not been counted, but thousands of new Republican votes now bolster the 7th congressional district.
With smug confidence, Republican legislators are gambling that their strict interpretation of the Constitution will prevail.
Indeed, in 1962 the courts ruled that the General Assembly determines congressional districts.
What Hillman is not telling us in his op-ed piece is that the 1982 case of Carstens v. Lamm trumps the issues that the Republicans have raised in passing their redistricting bill.
In this landmark Colorado case, quoted
in our constitutional records (see http://www.colorado.gov/government.htm), it was ruled the “goal of redistricting is fair and effective representation.”
The courts listed that as a primary goal. Additionally they specified, “Population equality standard is the pre-eminent, if not the sole, criterion on which to adjudge the constitutionality of congressional redistricting plans.”
My favorite opinion from the 1982 ruling is “Compactness and contiguity, as criteria for redistricting, were originally designed to represent a restraint on partisan gerrymandering.”
What the Republicans have done is plain and simple gerrymandering.
What does this mean to us locally and to Coloradans elsewhere in the state?
The financial burden on our already strained state budget is likely to be enormous. It could reach the millions of dollars if the Republicans’ crusade should reach the Supreme Court. If it does, we will lose our case and the expenditure will become an unpleasant line-item in the state’s judicial budget, a budget which currently cannot support court reporters and stenographers.
Relations between the two major parties have been damaged by the 11th hour antics of our political bunkos and they will take time and political resources to repair. How can we, as constituents, trust our elected representatives when they choose not to focus on the crucial issues of today (and tomorrow) but to dilly-dally with political power mongering? Do Republicans think that constituents statewide would not be offended by this behavior?
Worse yet, it might be that our state representatives have been co-opted on a national level by a Republican strategy to nationally steel their prominent position in the U.S. Congress.
If this strategy turns out to be true, is it not a strange assertion of power from a president who campaigned for the presidency upon a platform with a bipartisanship plank?
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