Colorado congressional redistricting battle headed to court
May 12, 2011
DENVER – Republicans and Democrats wasted no time taking their fight over congressional redistricting to court.
Both parties filed lawsuits Tuesday – the day before the final day of the session – asking a Denver district court judge to make the rules.
The judge could look at current maps or order new maps be drawn.
Republican attorney Richard Westfall said Wednesday that a decision is needed soon because of deadlines for the 2012 congressional elections.
“We’re both asking a Denver District Court judge to file a new redistricting map. We need it no later than October. It’s crucial, we need to have the districts drawn so we can go through all the machinery needed for the 2012 election,” Westfall said.
After learning that the courts will be drawing Colorado’s congressional maps and Republicans refused to drop demands for four GOP-dominated congressional seats, Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio said Republicans were only going through the motions holding hearings on redistricting, while Democrats were hoping to get a map drawn before the session ended on Wednesday.
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” Throughout the redistricting process, the GOP has claimed to be working in good faith; but as consensus emerged around the need for competitive congressional seats, Republicans did nothing to further those discussions. They have stuck to their gerrymandered maps until time has run out for a compromise, and now this process is in the hands of the courts again,” Palacio said.
On Wednesday, Democrats opted not to take a vote on a token bill that would have let legislators redraw congressional districts, killing any chances of a legislative solution this session.
Senate Democrats passed their own token plan Tuesday to draw new congressional districts, but it had no chance of passage before the Legislature adjourns. They could have forced a roll call vote but instead chose to let it die on the calendar without a vote. Democrats earlier killed a Republican plan to redraw congressional lines.
Congressional redistricting is required every 10 years following the census to ensure voter equality.
Both lawsuits are similar, with plaintiffs from each of the state’s seven congressional districts. The attorneys said congressional districts must be redrawn and in place by March 6 for precinct caucuses.
Both lawsuits name Secretary of State Scott Gessler as the defendant because he controls elections.
Gessler said he is trying to determine how long it will take county clerks to put together precinct caucuses for a new map.
“Our office is now trying to determine a drop-dead date for the judge,” Gessler said.
A decade ago, it took seven years, ending with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to get it done in Colorado.
During the last election, Republicans picked up two seats in Colorado, giving them a 4-3 majority, and Democrats would like new maps that provide help winning back some of those spots.