An effort is underway to present Colorado voters with a ballot question that would reform the state’s congressional redistricting process. Critics of the proposed initiative worry that it would limit minority voting blocs across the state by prohibiting drawing districts for the purpose of “augmenting … the voting strength of a language or racial minority group.” In all fairness, the proposed language would also prohibit mapping districts for purposes of “diluting” the voting strength of a minority group. Proponents say they have constructed a bipartisan effort ahead of the 2020 census, when the next congressional redistricting process would get underway. After the 2010 census, Republicans and Democrats fought over redrawing Colorado’s seven congressional districts, which created more competitive boundaries, to the ire of some Republicans. The issue was ultimately decided by Colorado courts after maps introduced by the Legislature during the 2011 session never advanced. Lawsuits were filed in Denver District Court, and in November 2011, the court ruled in favor of a Democratic proposal. In December 2011, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the Denver District Court decision.
Republicans were especially irked by the fact that Democrats had originally sought to pair conservative Grand Junction, in 3rd Congressional District, with liberal Boulder, in the 2nd Congressional District. Democrats also sought to move Parker in Douglas County into 3rd District along the Western Slope, held by Cortez Republican Scott Tipton. Those proposals never came to fruition.
Given the historical turmoil surrounding redistricting, proponents hope to alleviate controversy with a ballot effort that would focus on “transparency and fairness,” while eliminating gerrymandering, or manipulating boundaries to favor a party.
The proposal’s language is set for a review and comment hearing on Tuesday. If approved, proponents would need to collect 98,492 valid signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot.