Redistricting Trial Day 1 Recap

A quick wrap-up as parties in the court case to sort out Colorado’s congressional redistricting begin the two-week process of telling it to the judge–as the Durango Herald’s Joe Hanel reports:

In addition to the top Democratic and Republican lawyers in the state, attorneys for two Denver-area governments, Hispanic groups and the Pueblo district attorney also were on hand for opening arguments Tuesday.

Republicans, who have a 4-3 advantage in the delegation, want to stick as closely as possible to the current map. Republican lawyer Richard Westfall said the Democrats’ preferred map would put 1.5 million voters in a different congressional district.

“The lines you’re being asked to move affect real people and real communities,” Westfall said.

Democratic lawyer Mark Grueskin said the current map, drawn in 2001, should not be “deified.”

“This is 2011, and things have changed,” Grueskin said…

Adds the Pueblo Chieftain’s Patrick Malone:

The constitutional criteria the judge will apply to decide the new boundaries include preserving communities of interest linked by agricultural, economic, trade, geographic and demographic factors. Avoiding boundaries that divide cities, towns and counties and eliminating racial disparity also are considerations.

On a statewide scale, Democrats seek to shake up the present configuration to achieve more competitive congressional districts…

Republicans objected to the Democratic proposals that paired Boulder with Fort Collins in a district based on the presence of research universities in both cities, and matched Douglas County with the rural Eastern Plains rather than the Denver metro area.

Former Colorado Senate President Stan Matsunaka represents Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut, who joined the suit and offered two maps for consideration. Matsunaka described Thiebaut’s proposals as hybrids of the Democrat and Republican maps.

And the AP’s Steven Paulson:

GOP leaders say Democrats are trying to change districts held by GOP Reps. Mike Coffman in Denver’s southern suburbs, Cory Gardner in eastern Colorado and Scott Tipton in south and western Colorado. Coffman and Gardner’s districts lean heavily Republican, while Tipton’s has become competitive in recent years.

Attorney Mark Grueskin, representing Democrats who are offering their own maps, told Hyatt that many communities no longer share the same interests they shared a decade ago. Colorado’s forests and mountains need more help than one representative can provide, while oil and gas development has exploded up and down the Front Range, he said.

Grueskin said Republicans want no major changes because they hold a 4-3 advantage in Washington.

With the addition of a few other parties like the Colorado Hispanic Bar and Pueblo DA Bill Thiebaut, what we’ve seen thus far is basically a rehash of the arguments made during the failed legislative process. Democrats are arguing for significant changes to reflect growth in the last decade, while Republicans reject any recognition of competitiveness, and are arguing for as little change to the map as possible–“minimum disruption” of the map they bemoaned ten years ago as a partisan screwover. Today, lines that superficially look like ten years ago but in truth divide changing communities…actually, never mind. We don’t need to opine anymore.

That’s why we have a judge.

13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ArapaGOP says:

    This shouldn’t be a close call. There is nothing in the law that the judge must follow that allows “competitiveness” to be a criteria. The judge must use the criteria laid out in statute, and the GOP maps come closest to doing so. Democrats attempted to turn this into a partisan circus to take back power they rightly lost at the ballot box.

    I believe the judge will see through it.

    • Gray in Mountains says:

      you prick

    • Republican 36 says:

      If one of the political parties offer maps that meet the constitutional and legal criteria and also is competitive,there is no reason why the judge couldn’t adopt that map. As long as the adopted map meets the contstitutional and legal criteria whether it is competitive or not doesn’t matter.

      By the way, in 2010 the General Assembly repealed the section in CRS 2-1-102 which, until that time, forbade a court from considering competititveness in drawing congressional districts. The Republicans added that prohibition into the statute after Judge Couglin drew the map in 2002 and expressly said he wanted to draw the new 7th CD as a competitive district. He did so and the legislation followed but keep in mind Judge Couglin’s map also passed constitutional and legal muster under the criteria a judge must use. With the 2010 amendment there is nothing prohibiting a judge from accepting a plan that contains more competitive districts.

      Bottom line, if a judge wants to draw a  map with competitive districts he/she can do so as long as the the districts comply with the legal cirteria.

      • ohwilleke says:

        The status quo is definitively not acceptable because the population between different Congressional districts is too disparate.

        But, there are almost infinitely many ways to draw maps that meet the legal criteria which is why Congressional district drawing is in the first instance a political rather than a legal decision.  The standard of review for an appellate court is highly deferrential because there is far more than one right answer.

        In an ideal world, I think, the legal standard would be to pick the map that is in some meaningful sense the median possible map in terms of foreseeable favorability to one political party or the other, but there is no widely accepted metric for making that determination and there is also room for mischief in terms of being extreme towards one or another faction within a political party.  Still, the judge is surely trying mentally to strike a balance on this point between the proposals of partisans who couldn’t reach agreement because each set of proposals excessively favored one side or the other.

        But, I don’t think that there is any firm guidance one way or the other in either the constitution or election law between maps with the same predicted number of seats won by each political party in which one has lots of safe districts and few competitive districts, while the other has many competitive districts and few safe districts.

        Conceptually, the argument for competitive districts is basically one of judicial restraint in a political question.  While the judge can’t avoid drawing some lines, the more competitive the districts are, the more the ultimate outcome depends on the political process rather than a strongly foreseeable judicially determined outcome.

        If you have two maps that both produce an average of 3.5 Republicans and 3.5 Democrats, a map with six safe seats and one competitive one effectively involves a judge resolving 6/7th of the races in advance, while a mpa with two safe seats and five competitive ones effectively involve a judge in resolving only 2/7ths of the races in advance.  So competitive districts are the less political, less judicially activist, more judicially restrained, democracy enhancing option, in its Platonic ideal.

    • Republican 36 says:

      Instead of filing motions to prohibit the Democrats from introducing competitive maps and taking the position you’ve taken on this blog which, in the end, makes the Republicans look like a political party that doesn’t want the voters to have a choice in congressional elections, the Republicans should have turned the argument around and said the present map is already competitive. In the past ten years the 3rd CD, 4th CD, and the 7th CD have all changed hands between the parties. Therefore, with a few tweeks to insure one person – one vote, the present configuration is competitive. But true to form and with a tin ear for the politics of the situation, the Republicans have thrown mud on their own faces.  

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