An ill-conceived (mainly) Republican effort to get a redistricting “reform” initiative on the November ballot was decisively struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court today for not one–but two–violations of the single subject requirement. As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports:
The Colorado Supreme Court has thrown out two constitutional ballot measures that sought to change how Colorado draws its congressional and state legislative maps. But proponents of the measure vow they’ll try again in 2018.
The measures, promoted by Highlands Ranch Republican and former Speaker of the House Frank McNulty and former Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, who ended her legislative career unaffiliated, were deemed in violation of the “single subject” rule and tossed Tuesday morning by the Court in a 4-3 decision.
The redistricting measures intended to remove the ability to draw those maps from two redistricting commissions currently established in the state Constitution and put it instead in the hands of a single 12-member nonpartisan commission. The maps are drawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census…
You may remember last fall when GOP operatives Frank McNulty and Alan Philp’s first draft of a redistricting ballot measure blew up in their faces because of language that would have limited minority representation in congressional redistricting. The “Initiative 55” campaign was hammered by minority groups and business leaders alike, representing organizations such as the NAACP, the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, Common Cause, ACLU, Mi Familia Vota, and Los Servicios de la Raza.
Today, the clumsily re-drafted version to draw maps for both the legislature and the commission was struck down by the Colorado Supreme Court because as many as three different subjects had been jammed into a single ballot question. In addition to their constitutional issues, this latest version never defined a “competitive” district, and never addressed what would happen if commission members couldn’t agree on final maps.
The larger problem is that the measure was written behind closed doors last fall by a narrow, self-selected group of former elected officials who never bothered to engage the public and stakeholders. Colorado’s redistricting process–now done by the state legislature–may need some changes, but certainly not by a few sore losers who were upset with the maps drawn in 2011.
Apart from lawyers who made decent money arguing for these “solution in search of a problem” ballot measures, this was a big loser for everyone involved.
Drawing and re-drawing legislative maps are some of the most far-reaching political activities in America, with a dubious historical legacy. It’s not something that a handful of well-known Republican insiders should ever be entrusted to make sweeping changes to. What’s needed is a truly diverse, bipartisan initiative with a clear plan and a clear case for support: and even then it would be a tough slog.
In the end, Frank McNulty and friends accomplished very little with this quixotic effort, though perhaps they can take credit for boosting the economic fortunes of a couple of Colorado law firms. Next time, have evidence of a problem before you try to foist a “solution” on the rest of the state.