Forty Years Ago This Week: Republican voters who had filed suit in Federal District Court to have congressional redistricting settled by Nov. 10 were seeking “expedited consideration” for their suit, said Ted Halaby, attorney for the Colorado GOP.
Halaby said that at least 60 days were needed for “pre-clearance of any plan by the U.S. Justice Department to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.” The suit had been filed by one voter from each of the five congressional districts and named Gov. Dick Lamm, Attorney General J.D. McFarlane and Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan as defendants.
The suit called for a three-judge panel to be convened, for the present congressional districts to be declared unconstitutional, and for the defendants to be restrained from allowing the 1982 primary and general elections to occur until a redistricting plan was determined.
Halaby said that if the Legislature and Gov. Lamm agreed on a redistricting plan before the Nov. 10 deadline, then the court could possibly throw out the suit.
“Our interest is to have a redistricting plan in time for an orderly election process,” Halaby said.
Democratic Party state Chair Ann Bormolini said she was not surprised by the suit, but “the timing surprised me.”
Floyd Ciruli, Democratic Party vice-chair, agreed with Bormolini and added that it wasn’t clear why Republicans had picked the Nov. 10 deadline.
“I’m not sure the compromise is over,” Ciruli said. “I don’t feel there’s a big rush to have the courts settle the issue. Furthermore, little in federal court moves quickly. Court action will push the legislature to compromise on reapportionment. The Legislature, not the courts, is the place to solve the issue.”
Bormolini told The Colorado Statesman that Republicans were taking a chance with a court decision, as every Republican-dominated plan put forth had all divided the three biggest Democratic counties: Denver, Pueblo and Boulder, while Republican strongholds of El Paso, Weld and Larimer were all left intact.
Bormolini said Democrats would like to see “an honest plan” with two Republican, two Democrat and two swing districts.
“Gov. Lamm has expressed a number of compromise positions,” said Bormolini. “But Republicans are contending that no plan seems suitable to Lamm.”
Halaby contended that every Republican plan had met all the constitutional criteria and that there was no way not to split major urban centers and still retain an acceptable mathematical balance of districts.
“Even Denver Mayor William McNichols,” Halaby said, “has expressed interest in two strong Denver Districts. So, if the Legislature can’t do it, we prefer the courts. The courts will view the issues objectively, without partisanship. But, unfortunately, court action can’t be predicted and the court could formulate its own plan.”
Redistricting cases were being litigated in several states, but Colorado was the first state to go to court prior to the passage of any redistricting bill.
In other news: during the 1980 election, the Denver County Republican Party contracted with Al Seidenfeld to have sample ballots printed. Seidenfeld in turn subcontracted the job to a printing firm which, over a year later, was threatening legal action if they weren’t paid, claiming they were still owed a rather sizable sum for the work.
The debt amounted to nearly $10,000, but Seidenfeld would only confirm to The Statesman that he did, in fact, have an outstanding debt. But he wouldn’t name who he owed the money to.
“I am working the matter out with Denver County Republican Chairman Bill Willoughby,” Seidenfeld said.
The Statesman asked Willoughby what arrangements he had made with Seidenfeld to clear the debt, but reporters were told, “That’s none of your business.”
Rachael Wright is the author of the Captain Savva Mystery series, with degrees in Political Science and History from Colorado Mesa University, and is a contributing writer to Colorado Politics and The Gazette.