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April 05, 2011 11:55 PM UTC

Redistricting: Think Big!

  • 20 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols

The Joint Select Committee on redistricting here in Colorado, which we’ve affectionately nicknamed the “Kumbaya Committee” for the winsome attempt to reach a bipartisan solution on a singularly partisan matter, is moving along their process, and hopefully we’ll see some actual maps soon. So it’s a good time to take a look at how redistricting is shaping up around the country. We noted this Politico story from the middle of March, and you probably should too:

House Republican leaders won’t acknowledge it publicly, but the outline of the GOP’s national strategy for drawing new congressional maps is taking shape. The operating principle: Don’t get greedy.

Flush with their biggest House majority in more than 60 years and with memories of the last round of redistricting coloring their outlook, Republicans are seeking to lock in their November gains rather than pursue a go-for-broke approach designed to expand beyond their current numbers.

Instead of pushing GOP-controlled state legislatures to turn the screws on incumbent Democrats, a review of early redistricting action and interviews with key Republican players reveal that the goal is protecting the 242 seats they won in November – and cementing a 218-seat majority for the next decade…

The play-it-safe strategy is in large part a response to the GOP’s historic 63-seat gain in 2010. That’s the most seats either party has picked up since 1948, and it represents Republicans’ high-water mark since 1946. Now, the main objective is to safeguard as many of them as possible. [Pols emphasis]

You can understand why Republicans would want to avoid what was broadly perceived to be overreach in many states–including Colorado–during the last redistricting cycle, both for the political consequences, as well as the possibility of endangering the large gains made by Republicans in the last election. It’s a shrewd position, reflective of their momentary strength.

The problem is, that’s not what redistricting is supposed to be about.

Districts are redrawn every ten years to reflect the changes in local population during the intervening period, and create both geographically and culturally representative districts. They are dynamic, not static. They are supposed to change. In Colorado, the map selected ten years ago by a judge after the legislature’s process broke down was not necessarily the best reflection of the electorate it divided even then, as Republicans themselves argued when they unconstitutionally tried to substitute their own later. Why is it the best starting point today?

This is what we think should be the priority of the “Kumbaya Committee” as they begin to exchange proposed maps, and those maps begin to make their way into the public sphere–you can even make your own map using online tools. Instead of falling into the semantic trap of static districts that need to “gain” or “lose” population, why not start with a map with no congressional district lines at all, and figure out what serves all areas of the state best?

We don’t really think this is a partisan concept, but based on what we read above, maybe it is.

Comments

20 thoughts on “Redistricting: Think Big!

  1. Will Denver be divided?

    Will Brandon Shaffer have a Congressional district he can win?  

    The rumors are flying.

    If I am reading the numbers right Denver may lose a State House and Senate Seat.  That could make for some very interesting primary battles.

    The next few weeks will be interesting.  

  2. if there’s a legal reason Denver shouldn’t be split up?  I get that it’s a community that, seemingly logically, should be kept in one CD, but does it have to be?

    Over the years here, it seems to come up occasionally.

    A handful of other fairly large cities across the country get split w/o any fanfare…what’s the deal w/ Denver?

    1. Mayor Webb fought to keep Denver together last time.

      So if there either wasn’t a court challenge, or if could be proven that the interests are preserved (by splitting in certain places, possibly), then it could be split.

    2. largely because the two competing strategies in the past have been to either make Denver into an uber safe seat for the Dems or to dilute it into several pie-shaped Republican leaning districts with no real middle ground.

      Thankfully, the pie-shaped congressional districts radiating away from Denver are ancient history. Aesthetically, they would make the Colorado CD map look like a big asterisk * or maybe a butthole, depending on your point of view.

      Perhaps this tendency against overreach could see some Denver modification, especially since nobody has an overriding interest in DeGette’s comfort.

  3. While all of us will be fascinated to develop scenarios, the drawing of the Congressional district lines is really very mechanical.

    They always start at the state lines and work toward the center.  Once they have done the big geographic districts, they come back to Denver and try to keep it as whole as possible.  DeGette has to pick up some population and about the only way she can really go is further into Aurora on the east and southeast sides.

    Once Denver is set, the suburban ring of 2, 4 and 6 will get crunched – with some eye toward the El Paso County boundaries.

    In the end, I doubt that the map will look much different than it currently does.

    For fun, they could rotate 3 and 4 90 degrees and run them east-west instead of north-south.  That could be pretty cool.

    1. I think you’re right about expanding CD-7 north to include the rest of Jeffco, but I’d be surprised if the Adams portion of Westminster was included. The high population of Wetsminster would require a pretty dramatic change in the make-up of the district which would inevitably lead to a big political fight – something I think everyone is trying to avoid.

      My guess is that since CD-7 needs to be bigger and CD-2 needs to be smaller, it makes sense to give north Jeffco to CD-7. Another option would be to circle CD-7 around Westminster and throw in Broomfield.

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