Colorado redistricting resolutions head to the ballot

Colorado's current congressional districts. (Colorado Department of Education)

Two resolutions that could help create commissions to draw political boundaries for the Colorado legislature and the state’s  members of Congress are headed to the ballot.

Monday morning the state House of Representatives passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 4 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, which refer respective ballot questions on legislative and congressional redistricting to the November ballot. Colorado voters then would decide whether to create a new way of drawing political map.

Currently the legislature and the governor’s office have a heavy hand in drawing the district boundaries every 10 years using the latest census data. It usually turns into a protracted political fight involving the courts. Ultimately the districts have come to favor incumbents and political parties, say critics.

The new commissions would focus on competitiveness, not gerrymandering to protect the party with a legislative majority or incumbents, proponents of the change argue.

Both resolutions passed the House unanimously.  They passed the Senate unanimously on April 30.

Two sides that have fought to a standstill over the change for years came to an agreement in March to work together to get the congressional and legislative commissions on the ballot this year.

With the legislature’s help, the proposed ballot questions — Fair Districts Colorado and People Not Politicians — can bypass collecting the 98,492 it would take to get on the ballot.

They were sponsored by Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, with House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock.

The two groups that compromised the redistricting issues is now called Fair Maps Colorado.

“We’re pleased by the overwhelming support for these measures that will put fair and effective representation at the forefront of efforts to redraw political boundaries every 10 years — and provide an equal voice to unaffiliated voters in the process,” Fair Maps Colorado co-chair Kent Thiry, CEO of Denver-based DaVita Healthcare Partners, said in a statement. “But we know the real work is just beginning.”

Added co-chair Joe Zimlich, CEO of the Bohemian Companies:”As constitutional amendments, the measures will need 55-percent support to pass,” “For the next six months, we will travel the state and continue to build on the impressive support for establishing independent commissions and placing fairness and competitiveness at the center of congressional redistricting and legislative reapportionment.”

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