The residents of Colorado did their part just by being here. Voters did their part two years ago when they passed amendments Y and Z. Now the two independent commissions are charged with turning data into democracy by drawing new political districts for Congress and the state legislature.
We must demand they do their jobs beyond suspicion — I'm not foolish enough to think the chances are good — because a little bit of trust and faith has been sorely missing from the public square for some time.
Let’s have faith they will do what voters asked and deliver fair maps.
My colleagues Evan Wyloge and Ernest Luning broke the news, as usual for Colorado Politics, on Monday afternoon: The state with four Democrats and three Republicans in the U.S. House will add an eighth House courtesy of the state's growth.
That’s the biggest political story of the year, unless Jared Polis resigns as governor to play third base for the Rockies.
There's good reason to be suspicious and nervous (Polis can't hit a Major League slider).
These respective district lines will be in place for a decade, until the next census.
Where lines are drawn will pull in pockets of voters who historically sway one way or the other, which can tip the scales out of balance for partisan gain, a shady process called gerrymandering. With districts that are safe for one party's nominee, the seat is effectively filled in the primaries by candidates sanctioned, if not handpicked, by their party's bosses. That's a gravely ill democracy.
Amendments Y and Z were passed to create competitive districts. When elected officials have to honestly compete, they have to listen to the voters in their district, instead of their part.
The fallout is bigger than the district. The majority party controls the steering wheel of Congress and the General Assembly, assigning bills to committees and using their numbers to advance or kill legislation, no matter how good or bad a bill might be. Big majorities lead to big mistakes.
The constitutional amendments also require the input of experts and deliberations in public meetings, which also depart from tradition. If the fight is democracy, then it should be fought in the sunshine, not fostered in the dark like a mushroom.
The assumption is that the eighth district will fall along the urban corridor of the Front Range, but all the districts will shift to some degree.
If it lands in the Aurora area, it will probably elect a Democrat, but if it’s south of there in northwestern Douglas County, then it bends toward a Republican.
Ten years ago, the 6th Congressional shifted north and politically to the left, and in 2018 it cost Republican Mike Coffman his seat. If it shifts again, his replacement, Democrat Jason Crow, might need to update his resume.
The incumbent who should be concerned most is Trump fangirl Lauren Boebert in the 3rd Congressional District. The district takes in Pueblo County, where Democrats used to pick up votes to counter the Republicans on the Western Slope.
Boebert lost Pueblo County by only 214 votes out of 83,356 cast there last year.
If the county slid over into the solidly red 4th Congressional District on the Eastern Plains, then Pueblo becomes a non-factor for a decade.
But what if in the bargain the 3rd picked the left-leaning resort communities in Summit and Eagle counties, or the college crowd in Larimer County? Democrats feel giddy, that’s what. Boebert only won the seat last year by 26,512 votes out of 414,756.
Those left-leaning electorates now are in the deep blue 2nd Congressional District. Last November, Democratic incumbent Joe Neguse won Eagle and Summit counties by better than a 2-to-1 margin and Larimer County by 12%.
A bunch of liberal skiers here, a bunch of progressive academics there, and the pistol-packing congresswoman from Silt has trouble, right there in river city.
Gerrymandering, the art of political mapmaking, is government's original sin. If apples are grown in the political garden of Eden, you can count on partisans to take a bite.
Gerrymandered districts would be fixed in court, right? Not so fast. The Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that federal courts can’t block gerrymandering, because it would be an expansion of judicial power. That leaves fairness to the process, and Colorado voters asked for a fair process two years ago.
Because of the delay in receiving census data this year, thanks to the pandemic, Colorado’s commissions will be in a scramble to meet key deadlines, if the Census Bureau doesn’t deliver the data the panels need until August.
Under that rushed schedule, however, rests hope for a fair process.
I caught up with Kent Thiry, the now-retired Davita health care executive who is the father of Y and Z, Tuesday morning.
"With this new commission we'll actually have Coloradans proportionally represented in their legislature and their congressional slate, and that is a healthy democracy,” Kent said. "One of two things happens when you don't have balance: nothing gets done because of gridlock, or you careen back and forth, depending on who's in power.
"The beauty of balance is a healthy compromise."
Politicians would value compromise, if they valued the 71% of the voters who passed both Y and Z.