Colorado Amendments Y & Z: Looking for the other shoe

Friday, October 19, 2018

Colorado Amendments Y & Z are entitled "Congressional Redistricting" and "Legislative Redistricting," respectively. The purpose of these Amendments are basically the same, and so it most of the language, so I'm going to lump them together for the purposes of this edition of "Follow the Money."

These are Amendments to the Colorado Constitution, and according to the Secretary of State's office, both were unanimously referred to the voters by the state legislature.

The gist of both Amendments is to prevent gerrymandering in Colorado, and provide a more bipartisan process for redistricting after the census.

The following groups are in favor of the measure:
These groups have raised $4M to support the measure.

The following groups are opposed to the measure:
This group has not reported any moneys raised or spent, and (in my opinion) also seem a little fringe.

Note: "Follow the Money" values collected from the Colorado Secretary of State's TRACER system.  This system contains public disclosures for campaign finance in Colorado.

What happens today is that once the census data arrives from federal government, the state legislature attempts to put a legislative map together, drawing district lines for representation in the State House. If If they can't agree, or if someone's not satisfied, then a legal challenge is issued, and the court ends up drawing the lines. The legal challenge has occurred the last four times a census has been conducted. Both sides accuse the other of gerrymandering (and both are correct).

In the case of the Federal Congressional Districts, today an 11 member Colorado Reapportionment Commission is formed after the census. These individuals are appointed by the three branches of state government, with as many as six people from a single political party. Once they draw the maps and they hold public hearings, then send the map to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.

The new system would involve replacing both of these processes with 2 new commissions. The Commissions would have 12 members, 4 from the state's largest political party, 4 from the state's second largest political party, and 4 people who are unaffiliated. (For your information, the "unaffiliated" are the largest group of registered voters in Colorado, including yours truly.) The appointment process is supposed to be bi-partisan, is somewhat convoluted, and relies in part on random chance.

Once the Commissions are formed, they put together new maps, hold public hearings, and then vote. The new maps must pass by a super-majority of 8 "yes" votes, with at least 2 unaffiliated commissioners voting yes. Then it goes to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.

As near as I can tell, pretty much everyone endorses this legislation, on both sides of the aisle. The politicians want the Courts out of the redistricting business. Neither side trusts the other and sees risks in the current system, so want a more bipartisan effort.

I'm of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, I look at the legislation, and I say "Hurrah! Transparency in government!" On the other, I wonder why there's so much bipartisan support for this. Is the fix already in? What's the catch? My public servants have taught me to suspect skullduggery and shenanigans at all times, so I have trouble believing their sincerity. Imagine that.

Check this one over carefully, fellow voters. It's complicated, and requires some study to fully understand the proposed new process.

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