League seeks change in how voter district boundaries are set
The League of Women Voters of Colorado and other groups are planning to propose two citizens’ initiatives aimed at how the state determines congressional and legislative district boundaries every 10 years.
Calling the current system broken, the league said it is working with several groups to get two measures onto next year’s ballot to address each.
“Congressional redistricting has politicized the courts, due to inaction by the Legislature, forcing a Denver District Court judge to pick a map drawn by partisans in 30 out of the last 40 years,” the league said in a statement. “And legislative redistricting has been overcome by partisanship.”
By law, political boundaries from county commissions to federal offices are redrawn every 10 years, following results of the U.S. Census.
As a result, the state’s seven congressional districts, 35 state Senate districts and 65 Colorado House districts will change.
The next Census, to be released by 2021, is expected to reflect a large enough growth in Colorado’s population to add an eighth congressional district. Under the Colorado Constitution, regardless of population, the Legislature is always set at 100 seats.
In 1974, the league got voters to take redrawing state lawmakers’ districts out of the hands of the Legislature, creating instead an 11-member panel to deal with redrawing legislative district lines. That panel is appointed by the governor, Senate president, House speaker, Senate minority leader, House minority leader and chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.
Congressional district lines, however, still are determined by the Legislature, although those lines mostly have been determined by the courts in recent decades because political fights within the Legislature have resulted in maps that lawmakers couldn’t agree on.
The league said the result has been attempts to gerrymander district lines to favor one political party over another.
Toni Larson, vice president of the league, said the group still is trying to work out the makeup of the two commissions it would create, but said they likely would include an even number of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
“We do have drafts for both the congressional commission and the legislative commission, but we’re also looking to having people comment on those drafts, so it’s not a closed process,” she said, adding that the drafts will be made public Aug. 8.
Last year, the high court rejected two proposed ballot measures that attempted to do something similar, saying the ideas violated the state’s single-subject rules.
The league expects next year’s measures to correct that problem, but the details as to how that would be done are not yet decided.
That’s why the league is working with a national group, Fair Districts = Fair Elections, and is encouraging state lawmakers and other interested groups to help build a coalition to draft and pass the proposals.