Local contribution to state effort to end gerrymandering under way

wo legislative and one constitution mandate proposed

By Toni Todd

Sometimes, it’s not so much how residents of a community vote in an election that determines the winner, but how the borders of their legislative district are manipulated that affects the outcome of that election.

A push toward fair, legislative re-districting is under way in Colorado. Gunnison resident and former state legislator Kathleen Curry is leading the charge to end gerrymandering. In partnership with the Colorado League of Women Voters (LWV), and with help from a non-profit, non-partisan organization called Fair Districts Colorado, she’s filed three new ballot initiatives designed to improve Colorado’s often-contentious redistricting process.

Gerrymandering is the practice of redrawing and reshaping borders around legislative districts in a way that favors one political party over another. It has also been used to suppress the African-American vote, and to deprive Black and Latino voters of power in some states.

“Under our current system, politicians end up picking their voters instead of voters picking their politicians,” said Curry. “With our initiatives, more elections will be decided by competitive November elections instead of safe-seat primaries, making candidates actually compete for more voters.” Curry is the only unaffiliated candidate ever to have served in the Colorado state legislature.

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A group says it wants to end partisan redistricting in Colorado

The Colorado Independent – A coalition that launched a revamped plan it says would take partisanship out of how state and federal political districts are drawn is facing suspicions about its motives in a state with a bitter history that has left its district maps stained with bad blood.

At issue is a group called Fair Districts Colorado and its effort to persuade voters through a package of proposed ballot measures in 2018 to change the way electoral maps are drawn. It’s happening in this swingy state where voters are nearly evenly balanced among Democrats, Republicans and those who are unaffiliated with a party. And it’s happening at a time when political frustration with gerrymandering— a term for drawing political boundaries for partisan gain— is sizzling on the national stage.

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Resolution Supports Indiana Voting Redistricting

Tri-State Homepage – The Evansville City Council passed a resolution on Monday night to support an independent voting redistricting commission in Indiana.

The resolution shows the City of Evansville supports the belief that the state of Indiana should have an independent non-partisan commission to create the voting districts.

The League of Women Voters proposed the resolution.

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End gerrymandering now, before the next census

The Denver Post – We applaud the Colorado’s League of Women Voters for its effort to curtail gerrymandering ahead of the 2020 census, and wish the non-partisan group luck in its endeavor.

While we will withhold judgment of the organization’s proposal until we see the final language and whether it qualifies for the ballot this year, we’re encouraged that someone is stepping up to make this system of drawing districts more fair to voters of all political views.

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Bipartisan coalition calls for redistricting reform

The Daily Sentinel – An unlikely coalition of former elected leaders from both sides of the political spectrum have joined forces to fix what they say is wrong with the way the state redraws congressional and legislative district lines.

The coalition includes two former governors, three past speakers of the Colorado House, two former secretaries of state and numerous state representatives and senators.

Along with the League of Women Voters, the coalition submitted a proposed ballot measure Wednesday to change the way the state redraws congressional and legislative boundaries every 10 years, after the U.S. Census reports population changes.

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Bipartisan group files initiatives to change district drawing

The Gazette – A bipartisan group filed paperwork on ballot initiatives Wednesday to redraw the rules on how legislative and congressional districts are drawn in Colorado, a process that now ensures lots of safe districts for parties to control and feeds partisan gridlock in the state Capitol.

The paperwork to get on the November 2018 ballot was submitted by the League of Women Voters of Colorado and former state Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, who left the Democratic Party in 2009 to become unaffiliated. They are part of a bipartisan coalition called Fair Districts Colorado.

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Group files to put redistricting reform on CO’s 2018 ballot

The Denver Post – A bipartisan coalition backed by two former governors on Wednesday took the first step toward putting redistricting reform on the 2018 ballot, filing three initiatives that the group hopes will lead to more competitive elections in Colorado.

The three ballot initiatives seek to dilute the influence of the two major political parties in the state’s redistricting process by putting more unaffiliated voters on the commissions tasked with drawing the lines for state legislative and congressional districts.

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Gerrymandering Colorado’s Not-So-Great Divide

IVN — The Colorado Rockies are home to many stunning features, one of which is the Continental Divide, which separates the watersheds of the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. Now, while the Continental Divide is well-known, the state is also becoming known for another type of division that’s stunning for a very different reason.

Every 10 years, the Colorado Reapportionment Commission meets to divide up the state into districts based on the U.S. Census. They are charged with setting boundaries, substantially equal in population, for the state’s 35 State Senate and 65 State House districts.

In 2011, the last time Colorado’s districts were redrawn, they were drawn in such a way that the party receiving 55% of the vote in the 2014 elections ended up with fewer than half of the seats in the House of Representatives.

Why?

Through a process called gerrymandering, by which political partisans rig district boundaries to favor one class or party over another. Drawing districts based exclusively race or ethnicity is illegal, but up to this point, drawing them based on political party composition is allowed, though frowned upon by the Supreme Court.

The upshot of this partisan gerrymandering in Colorado?  Only one of the state’s seven congressional districts is truly competitive, and none of those seven districts have changed party hands this decade.  Of the state’s 65 State House districts, only three have changed party hands this decade.

Our vision for Colorado is congressional and legislative districts drawn using neutral, good-government criteria that promote more competitive elections.

Kathleen Curry, a former state legislator and FDFE board member

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Michigan ballot proposal to end gerrymandering

Detroit Free Press — A group says it wants to amend Michigan’s constitution to end political gerrymandering of election districts, taking the job of drawing the districts away from politicians and putting it in the hands of an independent commission.

The group Voters Not Politicians would have to collect close to 316,000 valid signatures to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot.

“I think Michigan voters overall have been frustrated at points with their government,” and “don’t trust their elected representatives with drawing election maps,” Katie Fahey, the group’s president and treasurer, told the Free Press today.

The proposal would establish a 13-member independent citizens commission on which independent voters would have five members, and the two major parties would each have four.

Elected officials, lobbyists, party officials and other political insiders would be ineligible to serve on the commission, which would hold public hearings before approving proposed district maps by majority vote, with at least two votes required from each of the three groups represented on the commission.

 While county lines and other municipal boundaries now form the building blocks of election districts, the commission would look to other factors, such as “communities of interest,” and seek to create districts that are politically competitive.

Fahey said her group has submitted proposed ballot language to the Board of State Canvassers but has not yet received a date for a public hearing.

Drawing of Michigan’s electoral districts is now controlled by lawmakers who control the state Legislature, with disputes resolved by the Michigan Supreme Court, whose members run on a nonpartisan ballot but are nominated by state political parties.

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