Lawmakers miss redistricting deadline
DENVER — The Legislature’s attempt to draw new congressional districts went down in flames in a Senate committee Tuesday, sending the measure to the courts as a result.
The instant the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee killed a House plan to redraw those lines, lawyers from both parties electronically filed separate suits in state and federal courts, according to a source who asked not to be named.
A new map will be needed by the end of the year because of new caucus rules and next year’s presidential election. So, the Legislature cannot wait until next year’s session to try again.
Democrats hope to get a more favorable ruling in state court, while Republicans prefer more conservative federal judges, the source said.
Whichever court gets the case likely would redraw the lines unless Gov. John Hickenlooper calls a special session. The Legislature adjourns today.
“It’s a race to the courthouse,” said Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora. “The first to file generally has the benefit to remove and merge the second case, so if you have a preference in which court you’re in, you’re usually in an advantage.”
Carroll, a lawyer, said Democrats do better in Denver District Court, where such cases by law must be filed, because judges there were appointed by Democrats. Republicans, however, prefer federal courts for redistricting cases because most have been appointed by Republican presidents.
“While it’s not supposed to make a difference, any lawyer who practices in any case, not just in highly partisan redistricting cases, will tell you that there’s a strategic difference,” said Carroll, who served on a legislative panel that attempted to draw new congressional lines.
Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, who also served on that panel, made a last-ditch attempt in the committee to get Democrats to see the Republicans’ side, offering a new map that was virtually identical to one they proposed earlier.
Democrats on the committee didn’t go for it, killing it on a 3–2 party-line vote.
“Despite the fact that we have a constitutional duty to redraw Colorado congressional districts, Democrats chose to punt and give this task to the courts,” Brophy said.