The big redistricting lie |

The big redistricting lie

Just because you say something enough does not make it true. Republicans are saying that it is their “duty” and “obligation” to redistrict Colorado’s congressional districts to ensure five out of seven seats are firmly in Republican hands. That is a lie. Let me tell you why.

To begin with, state Senate President John Andrews is lying because U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay admitted openly this is a power grab. He said publicly that he wants more Republicans in Congress. That is his job, he claimed, not a constitutional duty. Finally, a little honesty.

It is not anyone’s duty to redraw district lines because the Legislature ceded that authority in 2002 when it could not agree on a plan that included competitive districts. Even after three attempts, Republicans refused to compromise.

If you don’t believe me, then you might be persuaded by conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who wrote in Branch vs. Smith that “The state (and the state and federal courts) should be given the full time available – right up until the time when further delay will disrupt the election process – to reapportion according to state law S Under our view, if the state fails to redistrict, then federal courts may do so.”

Simply, a judge’s order is of equal validity as that of the Legislature. There is no duty to redistrict.

If Andrews claims otherwise, then wouldn’t that mean that President Bush is illegitimate, given that a court was the deciding factor in his “victory”?

It was not just a bad plan for redistricting, but how Republicans pushed that plan through in the final days of the Legislature by violating Senate rules and rights guaranteed every legislator through the Colorado Constitution.

When it became clear in the first day SB 352 was introduced that Democrats in the Senate might be successful in filibustering until midnight when the bill would have died, Andrews made a kangaroo court out of the Senate.

Specifically, Republicans refused to recognize senators who wished to speak. They violated Article V, Section 13 of the Colorado Constitution that guarantees a “roll call” vote if requested by any senator.

They resorted to “ayes and nays” votes that do not record any actual votes, but just that of the body. They made a mockery of the rule that bills must be read at length, if so requested.

Instead of reading a 42-page bill at length, they had 20 people each read two pages all at the same time. This is ultimately why nonpartisan staff quit in protest over the destruction of the democratic process.

It is clear to any observer that Republicans committed serious violations of the Constitution, trampled personal liberties and made a mockery of long-held Senate traditions. But the plan itself has major problems.

It splits the Western Slope in half despite testimony and a brief by Gov. Bill Owens that he would steadfastly veto any plan that did that.

I suppose he forgot about that promise. Their plan packs Hispanics into the Denver 1st District and decreases Hispanics in the 7th District, represented by Bob Beauprez, from 19 percent to 14 percent.

It also splits Pueblo in half and makes five out of seven districts uncompetitive for Democrats. Essentially, Democrats and unaffiliated voters – two-thirds of the state’s voters – will not have any voice in five congressional elections.

This was nothing less than a White House plot to take over the U.S. House of Representatives for decades to come. It will ensure Bush’s re-election and create a one-party system in America – nothing to be decided in November 2004, no discussion, and no dissent. When Karl Rove and Tom Delay say jump, Andrews and Owens say “how high?”

I am proud of my colleagues in the Colorado and Texas state legislatures for our efforts and attempts at stopping this sinister and secret plot.

We used every tool at our disposal and we will fight them with every last breath. Our constituents, including Democrats, Independents, and yes, Republicans, deserve nothing less in the preservation of democracy – competitive and fair elections where every vote counts, no matter who casts it.

All Republicans in the House and Senate are singing from the same song sheet – “it was our job and we had to do it.” Just because they say it does not make it true. Tom Delay was right: they redistricted not because they had to, not because it was better, not because it was right, but simply because they could.

State Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald is the Senate Minority Leader. The Democrat represents Summit, Jefferson, Gilpin, Clear Creek and Boulder counties.

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