Redistricting as it should be
The legislative redistricting process that continued in Denver Monday is not quite the antithesis of the highly politicized congressional redistricting effort that imploded in the state Legislature earlier this year, but it is an example of what might have been.
Since both processes involve drawing districts for elective office, politics are deeply enmeshed in both of them. And, this year at least, both began with efforts to gather public input from around the state.
However, unlike the congressional redistricting, the process for redrawing legislative districts relies on an independent commission of 11 members appointed by the governor, the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court and leaders of both houses of the Legislature.
Only two of the members currently serve in the Legislature. Most don’t have a personal stake in the outcome. They can view things objectively and can consider what’s best for the entire state, not just one region or one party.
No doubt that’s why redrawing legislative districts in Colorado has been a pretty straightforward process the past few decades, not one that seemingly always ends up in court.
Contrast this with the congressional redistricting fight, in which several state lawmakers were involved in supporting or opposing plans involving boundaries for congressional districts in which they hope to seek election next year.
In the legislative redistricting effort, Mesa County is fortunate to have former state Rep. Gayle Berry as one of the members of the redistricting commission. She is a pragmatic person who has long been able to work with members of both parties on contentious issues. We trust she will watch out for the interests of this region and the entire state.
The commission chairman is Mario Carrera, a communications executive and unaffiliated voter from Parker. Its vice chairman is former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, a Democrat.
The commission has been holding weekly meetings since last month, and it accepted public testimony at Monday’s hearing. More hearings are expected to be held around the state once draft maps of proposed new legislative districts are completed.
After the congressional redistricting effort failed in the Legislature, the issue ended up in court through a state lawsuit. The initial hearing on that lawsuit is scheduled for October, and the chances remain high that a judge or panel of judges will end up drawing the state’s congressional districts for the next decade, just as occurred 10 years ago.
State lawmakers should take a lesson from the independent legislative redistricting commission and adopt legislation to create a similar independent commission to redraw congressional districts following the 2020 census and avoid the political circus and court case that occurred this year.