Legislators hope redistricting process goes more smoothly this time around
In an effort to avoid the same heated bickering over congressional redistricting they had the last time those lines were drawn, state lawmakers plan to form a bipartisan panel to decide the highly partisan issue.
House and Senate leaders announced this past week they will form a 10-member panel of legislators, five Republicans and five Democrats.
Together, they are to come up with a new map of the state’s seven congressional districts based on U.S. census data that is to be released this week.
“We recognize that Colorado voters expect something different at the Capitol these days, and they expect Republicans and Democrats to work together to meet the challenges that we have,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch and the next speaker of the Colorado House. “One of our goals is to take what is always one of these most partisan issues at the state Capitol, try and take the heat out of it, take the politics out of it, and do the work of the people.”
The last time the Legislature redrew those lines, the issue took nearly three years to decide. At the time, the Republicans controlled the governor’s office and the House, but the Democrats had an 18-17 majority in the Senate.
As a result, every GOP-drawn congressional map that was approved in the House was killed in the Senate, and every Democratic map from the Senate was nixed in the House.
A court ended up drawing the map for the 2002 elections, but the following year. after the GOP gained control of the Senate, Republicans attempted the now-famous midnight redistricting. That’s when they spent the final three days of the 2003 session approving a new map, which the Colorado Supreme Court later rejected as unconstitutional.
A similar thing could happen during next year’s Legislature because the Democrats will control the governor’s office and the Senate, but the Republicans have a one-vote majority in the House.
“Traditionally, redistricting is a divisive and very partisan process,” said Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, who is to be House minority leader when the Legislature convenes next month. “The voters this last election didn’t give a mandate to either party. They gave a mandate for bipartisan control.”
The panel, the members of which remain to be named, plans to conduct public hearings in all seven congressional districts during the first few months of the 2011 legislative session. The Legislature is expected to vote on a final map before the session ends in May.