Colorado Lawmakers Told to Butt Out of Redistricting Effort

June 4, 2021 by Dan McCue
Colorado Supreme Court chamber. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed the independence of the state’s redistricting commissions, holding that an effort by the General Assembly to change the process violated the state constitution.

The ruling came as a result of an interrogatory lawsuit filed after the General Assembly began to consider Senate Bill 21- 247.

The bipartisan bill sought to redefine what data the redistricting commissions can use to draw new political districts ahead of the 2022 general election. 

Instead of using “necessary census data” as defined by state statutes, the legislation sought to allow the commissions to continue their work based on the total population counts that the Census Bureau released in April.

In a 5-2 ruling, the state Supreme Court held that SB 21-247 would be unconstitutional if enacted because “the independent commissions were established by voters specifically to remove authority from the General Assembly over the redistricting process.”

But the justices went on to say nothing in the voter-approved ballot measure requires the redistricting commissions to require “exclusive use” of final census data, and the commissions are “free to consult other reliable sources of population data.”

Senate Bill 21-247 also sought to make other changes to the redistricting process, including requiring an additional public hearing on map drawing to be held after the commissions update their plans using final census data. Lawmakers also sought to direct courts on what legal standard they should use if a party sues to challenge the final redistricting plans. 

The court also rejected those proposed changes. 

“The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed that the independent commissions are just that– independent,” said Carlos Perez, chair of the Legislative Redistricting Commission in a statement Tuesday.

“The overwhelming support for Amendments Y and Z in 2018 unequivocally demonstrated that the voters are highly skeptical that a partisan process will yield fair maps,” he said.

In fact, the commissions have already voted themselves to move forward with the use of preliminary data. 

After the court’s opinion was released Tuesday, the commissions released new deadlines, with plans to finish drawing preliminary maps by June 23 for the Congressional Redistricting Commission and June 28 for the Legislative Redistricting Commission.

The two commissions plan to hold joint public hearings on the preliminary maps from July 7 through August 30. 

Once the U.S. Census Bureau releases additional data on August 16, staff would begin preparing so-called staff maps.

Public hearings on staff maps, based on final census data, will then be held in September, and the commissions plan to complete the redistricting process by the end of the year.

Majority Leader Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Democrat, said in a statement that the General Assembly’s bipartisan bill was aimed at allowing the commissions to move forward with preliminary census data and avoid disruptions.

“The court in its ruling today allowed the commission to use preliminary data and the process the General Assembly suggested. It’s now up to the commission to decide how to proceed,” Esgar said.

In a statement of its own, the Colorado House GOP caucus said, “Coloradans deserve a truly independent redistricting process that is free from political influence or partisan gerrymandering. 

“Our citizens are best served by many competitive districts where candidates must compete based on the values of their policies and not the partisan letter behind their name on the ballot,” the statement said.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office also issued a statement that said: “Today’s decision from the Colorado Supreme Court is encouraging as it enables the redistricting commissions’ timely completion of the congressional and state electoral maps.

“Timely completion of the final electoral maps is important, as the 2022 election calendar and the date of the statewide primary could otherwise be delayed,” the statement continued. “The Secretary of State’s Office will continue to work with stakeholders on this crucial issue.”

In The News

Health

Voting

In The States

League of Woman Voters Seek Redistricting Deadline Extension in Michigan
In The States
League of Woman Voters Seek Redistricting Deadline Extension in Michigan
June 13, 2021
by Dan McCue

The League of Women Voters of Michigan filed an amicus brief with the state's Supreme Court this week in support of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission's proposed extended timeline for adopting final redistricting plans. The commission was formed after a 2018 public referendum in which... Read More

Kansas Receives Gold Shovel Award
Economy
Kansas Receives Gold Shovel Award
June 11, 2021
by Brock Blasdell

The state of Kansas has been awarded Area Development Magazine’s prestigious Gold Shovel award in recognition of its successful year attracting high-value business investment. Over $6 billion in new business dollars and more than 26 thousand jobs have been created within the state of Kansas since... Read More

Public-Private Partnerships, Accurate Maps Should Drive US Broadband Deployment
Technology
Public-Private Partnerships, Accurate Maps Should Drive US Broadband Deployment
June 10, 2021
by Victoria Turner

In South Carolina, the state government is matching broadband service providers dollar-for-dollar if they build out networks to the identified unserved areas, said Andrew Rein, chief financial officer of telecommunications provider Hargray, Wednesday. And the need for accurately mapping these areas without access to high-speed broadband... Read More

Ciattarelli and McAuliffe Winners in Gubernatorial Primaries
In The States
Ciattarelli and McAuliffe Winners in Gubernatorial Primaries
June 9, 2021
by Brock Blasdell

Jack Ciattarelli, a moderate Republican from New Jersey, and Terry McAuliffe, an establishment Democrat from Virginia, both had strong victories in last night's gubernatorial primaries against their respective party’s political competition. Now in the last stretch of a race to the governor’s office, they face several... Read More

Ohio AG Yost Sues Google
In The States
Ohio AG Yost Sues Google
June 9, 2021
by Victoria Turner

COLUMBUS, Ohio - As Congress continues to grapple with whether high-speed internet should be considered essential infrastructure, as important as water and electricity, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost took an unprecedented step against Alphabet's Google yesterday. In what the AG's office statement describes as a "landmark... Read More

Virginia Teacher Reinstated After Dispute Over Transgender Students
Law
Virginia Teacher Reinstated After Dispute Over Transgender Students
June 8, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

A judge on Tuesday ordered a Leesburg, Va., elementary teacher reinstated in his job after he was suspended for refusing to address transgender and nonbinary students according to their gender preferences. Physical education teacher Byron “Tanner” Cross refused to address transgender and nonbinary girls as “she”... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top