Two 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.
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.
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.
For too long the redistricting of Colorado’s congressional districts and state legislative districts have fallen victim to the underhanded strategies of both Republicans and Democrats who are trying to get the upper hand in the next decade’s elections.
Coloradans benefit when as many districts as possible are as competitive as possible. When a strong candidate from the left and a strong candidate from the right clash in an honest campaign on policy, it’s a beautiful thing for our democracy.
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.
Led by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Colorado and former state Rep. Kathleen Curry, a political independent, the effort has some high-profile backers in both parties.
September 6, 2017Updated: September 6, 2017 at 6:34 pm
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.
The group hopes to involve more unaffiliated voters and represent all political interests, potentially giving non-major party candidates a shot, not just the majority party in the legislature when the boundaries are drawn.
“The more people who participate in the process the better off we are as a state,” Toni Larson, a Colorado League of Women Voters officer, told reporters on a press call Wednesday morning.
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.
Former Rep. Kathleen Curry, a Democrat-turned-unaffiliated, said she’s experienced firsthand how the current system is biased toward the two major parties.
“I submitted an application to the Colorado Supreme Court seeking to sit on the reapportionment commission,” said Curry, whose district included part of Delta County. “I thought I had submitted a pretty good application and letter, and I was informed that they needed to check in with the two parties first before I could be considered. At that point, I knew we were out of whack.”
A year after a similar effort fell apart because of a legal challenge, a bipartisan coalition is back at the drawing board in an attempt to end partisan gerrymandering in Colorado.
Led by the League of Women Voters of Colorado, the coalition is drafting a 2018 ballot initiative that seeks to significantly dilute the power of the two major political parties in the state’s redistricting process, starting after the 2020 census.
Instead, it would give unaffiliated Coloradans — who now represent 35 percent of the state’s active voters — a decisive voice in how the state’s voting lines are drawn every 10 years. The hope is that it will put an end to the once-a-decade partisan war that has ended up in court three of the last four decades.
Congressional district maps used to be an afterthought; they were a locked-away secret, decided upon by a powerful few and thoroughly uninteresting to the rest.
But now gerrymandering, or the drawing of political voting maps to benefit a political party, is getting major national attention because of its perceived impact on legislatures that are skewed heavily toward one party.
The problem’s been quietly lurking for years. With widely varying and loose rules on how to divvy up congressional districts in an increasingly partisan climate, congressional district maps have morphed into political weapons. A lawsuit involving alleged gerrymandering on partisan grounds in Wisconsin is set to go to the nation’s highest court; the results of the trial could have major impacts on the future of voting, including in Colorado.
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.