Three of the last four attempts to map the state’s congressional and legislative districts have wound up in court with both Republicans and Democrats wagging fingers, accusing each other of carving up the state to favor one party over another. A bipartisan group, including two former governors and three former secretaries of state, wants voters in November 2016 to weigh in on reforming how this mapping works. The political bickering, they say, needs to stop. Last week the group submitted a ballot measure, Initiative 55, that would create a 12-member commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and four unaffiliated voters, that would take over the mapping from the legislature. The nonpartisan legislative legal staff of the General Assembly would still develop the maps for the commission to consider. After three tries, if the staff were unable to come up with a map to the commission’s liking, the ballot measure says, the map would go to the state Supreme Court.
The commission would have to conduct all of its business in open public hearings — a big shift from the secrecy tainting the current way redistricting works. Commission members would be barred from talking to people outside of public meetings about the process, preventing political operatives from slyly hijacking redistricting — a perennial problem as things work now.
The biggest difference between the current practice and the proposed one would be in the final steps: Maps would be approved only by a supermajority of eight of the 12 commissioners, ensuring that no one political party could control the process. And final approval would come from the Colorado Supreme Court, not the legislature.