Now that independent redistricting commissions have the seal of approval of the U.S. Supreme Court, maybe it’s time for Colorado to consider one. The high court ruled last week that Arizona voters had been within their rights when they passed a referendum stripping the legislature of its authority to draw congressional boundaries every 10 years. Voters set up an independent commission to do the job instead. The 5-4 ruling is controversial, and appears to override fairly explicit constitutional language, but it’s now the law of the land. And it provides an opportunity for Colorado to reform its redistricting process and thus address what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delicately called “the problem of partisan gerrymandering.”
Partisan gerrymandering is a principal reason so few congressional seats nationwide are considered competitive — just 40 to 60 each election cycle out of 435 seats, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Colorado does have one notably competitive district — the 6th, which is currently held by Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican. But there’s no reason there couldn’t be more such seats if the responsibility for drawing lines were taken out of partisan hands and given to an independent commission.
A number of Western states besides Arizona have such commissions, including California, Idaho and Washington. And while no redistricting method can make every district competitive — especially in states like California in which one party is heavily dominant — they can eliminate the sort of contrived boundaries that artificially boost the advantage of one of the parties.