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February 21, 2006 09:00 AM UTC

Colorado Redistricting Fight Still Alive

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE: A reader sent us this copy of the proposed 2003 redistricting map. We can’t vouch for the validity of this map, or whether it ended up being the final proposed version, but it will give you a rough idea of how the district lines would change under that plan. To see the current congressional map, check out National Atlas.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on the long-running redistricting challenge in Colorado:

The Supreme Court has revived an attempt by Colorado Republicans to block a congressional election map.

Justices on Tuesday gave Republicans a new chance to challenge boundaries drawn by a state judge in 2002. The judge handled the task because lawmakers could not agree on boundaries when the state received an additional congressional seat after the 2000 U.S. Census.

In an unsigned opinion, justices said that a lower court was wrong to prevent the lawsuit. Justice John Paul Stevens filed a dissent, saying that a “spurious” claim was properly dismissed by the lower court. The Supreme Court is already hearing one dispute over district drawing, from the state of Texas, that involves a similar dispute. Arguments are next week.

In both states, Republican lawmakers drew second maps to replace ones put in place by courts. The Colorado Supreme Court threw out the Republican map, finding that the state constitution allows redistricting only once a decade. Republicans brought a new challenge and lost before a three-judge federal panel.

At issue before the Supreme Court was whether federal courts had jurisdiction. The case is Lance v. Dennis, 05-555.

You can read the opinion at the Supreme Court  Web site (the link is to a PDF). For more background on the redistricting case, check out this CNN story.

Okay, here’s how it has been explained to us, though all you attorneys out there may certainly disagree (and please do comment with your own interpretations):

This is a victory for Republicans, including attorney John Zakhem who has continued to plow ahead on this case long after others abandoned it, but it may only be a minor victory. What the Supreme Court essentially said was that Republicans have a right to have their complaint heard in Federal Court. However, that does not change the fact that the same argument they have made before, unsuccessfully, will just as likely be unsuccessful in a Federal Court. In short, Republicans won a minor skirmish here, but certainly not the war.

If, however, Republicans are successful in their complaint to a Federal Court, all hell could break loose in Colorado. In the event of a Republican victory, it is probably more likely that any change in the congressional district lines wouldn’t get around to being made until 2008. But if things moved quickly enough to affect 2006, a decision could change the boundaries back to those that were set by Republicans in their last-minute redistricting efforts in 2003.

If that were to happen, it would change the entire complexion of some races, most notably in CD-7. That district, now considered the most competitive in the country in large part because it is almost evenly divided among registered Republicans and Democrats, would instantly become a Republican district where Rick O’Donnell would be the clear favorite on the basis of a large voter registration advantage. The other major change would make Republican-dominated CD-6 somewhat more viable for a Democrat, because the bulk of the Democratic registered voters lost in CD-7 would shift to CD-6. That still probably wouldn’t be enough to make CD-6 a real competitive seat, and it wouldn’t offset the loss to Democratic chances in CD-7.

Again, none of this is likely to happen, but the Supreme Court’s decision today at least makes it possible.

It’s also worth noting that any boundary changes could be changed again after 2010, as there is some talk that Colorado could gain an eighth congressional district after the next census.


23 thoughts on “Colorado Redistricting Fight Still Alive

  1. We don’t recall – it’s been awhile back now. If memory serves, it was the Lakewood/Golden sections of CD-7 that would move to CD-6. The new Republican voters would have come from extending CD-7 further east. That’s just from memory, however, so don’t hold us to it.

    If any of you have a link to the old Republican-drawn map, please post it here.

  2. Boundaries probably will change in 2010, due to intrastate population shifts that leave the districts unbalanced population wise.  But, an 8th CD is very unlikely for the foreseeable future.  I’ve run numbers and it would take a pretty remarkable conspiracy of changes in state growth rates to get Colorado down to 6 or up to 8 representatives by 2010.

  3. If you are about to be executed the Republicans want to limit your appeals even if you find exculpatory evidence. Yet, they think that they should be allowed to litigate this dead horse forever. They are hypocrites. This case was reversed on purely procedural grounds and will go nowhere when the District Court gets it back

  4. Oh quit whining.
    The only question I have after reading this is… Wouldn’t it flip flop the guys holding/running for the 6th and 7th CDs? Wouldn’t ROD end up running for the 6th (JeffCo resident right?) and Tancredo have to run for the 7th (because he lives in Arapahoe).
    Or would they both have to battle it out for the 7th?
    Then who would be left to run for the 6th? Would Peggy Lamm have to change her address… I mean, uh, move again?

  5. Any change in boundaries for Colorado’s congressional districts would affect the boundaries for State Board of Education and CU Board of Regents districts (but not the two at large seats) as well.

  6. Rock 5:

    The answer to all your questions is no. The U.S. Constitution governs residency requirements for congressional representatives (art. I, sec. 2(2)). A person must be an inhabitant of the state at the time of election. Legally, someone could run for the 7th even if s/he lived in California, but moved to Aspen the day before the election.

  7. I’m not sure the current legislature shouldn’t just replace the old 2003 redistricting plan with a fresh one.  After all, a legislative redistricting plan is just a legislative redistricting plan.  Why would a 2003 plan have any more standing than a new one submitted by this legislature?  What the legislature did in 2003 can be undone by this legislature.  THEN let the republicans whine.

  8. Republican Gov. Bill Owens could veto any plan drawn by this legislature, RDANDREA.  Dick Lamm and Roy Romer both vetoed plans written by all-Republican legislatures.  The deadlock forced thye courts to draw the 1982 lines.  In 1992 a similar deadlock put the state in court but the court gave the lege and Romer one last chance to agree and they did.

  9. If I am reading the synopsis of the Supreme’s decision, it is only a technical issue about the way the Colorado SC handled the case and is not making a ruling on the validity of the legislature re-districting again after restricting had already been done (would that be reredistricting?). The questions at the center of the original court case was: can a state redraw congressional lines twice during the same decade between censuses; and can a judicially-decided redistricting be later overturned by the legislature?

    As for the 2003 map itself: the end result is strong GOP districts in 3,4,5 and 6; strong Dem. districts in 1 and 2 and 7 remains a battleground, but the Dems would seem to loose the slight edge they now have.

    From looking at the map, it looks like Tancredo would still be in 6 (I don’t know where Winter lives for sure, but I think he would still be in 6) and Perlmutter would still be in 7 (I don’t know where O’Donnell lives). The other incumbents would not be affected, and I think all the people looking at running in 5 would still be in 5.

  10. Other People Said….

    ColoradoLib has more on the story on that NREL situation. I don’t think he mentions the part about where the “restored” funding still won’t get NREL back to where they were a year ago. An Olympic story I missed, and one I’m glad Prometheus 6 pointed ou…

  11. Other People Said….

    ColoradoLib has more on the story on that NREL situation. I don’t think he mentions the part about where the “restored” funding still won’t get NREL back to where they were a year ago. An Olympic story I missed, and one I’m glad Prometheus 6 pointed ou…

  12. Yeah, the 2003 map would definitely cause havoc for CO dems… CO-07 would probably lean Republican and CO-03 would, too, if the GOP could find a decent candidate.

    That said, I’d love to see Dems re-redistrict in 2007…

    They could borrow a few Dem-leaning areas from Tancredo’s district and toss them into the 7th…

    I’d make the 3rd an essentially Southern colorado district from a split Garfield county to Kiowa (adding Lake and Chaffee)… The Salazars overperformed in GOP-leaning SE Colorado and underperformed in the NW…

    I’d then combine the NW from CD 3 with Larimer, Weld, and Morgan, perhaps trading a few counties with CD-02 for better Dem performance…

    Tancredo’s reduced district could reach down into Park, Teller, and Fremont…

    And the El Paso district could reach through parts of Elbert into the NE…

    The end result: Bye, bye Marilyn!

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