Udall: New redistricting map will fail democracy | SummitDaily.com

Udall: New redistricting map will fail democracy

DENVER – Rep. Mark Udall, who represents Summit County in the 2nd U.S. Congressional District, said democracy could suffer if a congressional redistricting map OK’d in the state Legislature Wednesday is allowed to stand.

State legislators argued late into the night about Senate Bill 352, which will realign congressional districts and give Republicans a stronghold at the national level. Legislators approved the bill in the House and Senate Wednesday.

The issue – particularly the politics behind it – has Republicans defending their obligation to approve a congressional district map, and it has Democrats seething.

“The Legislature has an obligation, a duty, to uphold the Constitutional rights,” said Blair Jones, spokesman for Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction. “That’s the way he feels.”

McInnis lost Pitkin County to the 2nd Congressional District, in which Summit County is included. Jones declined to discuss the politics behind the debate and the decision.

“They have every right to seethe,” said Udall, who will pick up Pitkin and Park counties and lose part of Grand County and Westminster in the deal. “The way it happened will really damage the tradition in Colorado of open, clean, civil legislative activity. If this was something important to do, they had 120 days to bring it forward. Our country’s founders warned us of the tyranny of the majority. That’s why we have a Bill of Rights.”

Republicans, however, say the session would have bogged down to a standstill if they had presented the bill any earlier than 118 days into the 120-day session.

Some politicians said the legislation got its start in Washington, D.C.

“There’s been a lot of speculation whether this would happen – particularly in Texas,” Udall said. “The White House admitted they’d advised their party in Colorado to do the same.”

Udall said Legislatures need a mix of “safe” and competitive seats for democracy to work.

“It’s a check and balance thing,” he said. “It forces members to deliver (on promises) rather than rhetoric on the issue of the day.

“A democratic government is about competition – about ideas, vision and direction. If you don’t have that because you have safe seats, democracy suffers. If you don’t have a full airing of those ideas, society suffers. The outcome of a vote is determined before debate begins. You don’t even start debate. Everyone knows where everyone stands. That’s why I’m worried, upset and angry about it.”

Some state legislators are worried the new district boundaries will force a new – and expensive – election. If so, it would have to be held in the next 90 days. But Democrats have threatened to take the case to court, and State Attorney Ken Salazar, a Democrat, has said he will not defend the state in that case.

“This is the first chapter in a book that could have many chapters,” Udall said. “This could be a U.S. Supreme Court case. But in the end, it’s the voters who determined who played fair or not.”

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