POSITION IN BRIEF:

Support of measures to establish an agency other than the General Assembly to redistrict the Colorado General Assembly and the Colorado Congressional Districts. Support of redrawing the districts of both houses of the state legislature and the Colorado U.S. congressional districts based on specific criteria.

POSITION: (Adopted 1973, rev. 1983, 2011)

Support for the following criteria for drawing the boundaries of legislative districts of both houses of the state legislature and of Colorado U.S. congressional districts:

  • Each district should have a population as nearly equal as may be required by the Constitution of the U.S., but in no event shall there be more than 5% deviation between the most populous and the least populous district.
  • Each district shall be as compact an area as possible and the aggregate linear distance of all district boundaries shall be as short as possible.
  • Except when necessary to meet equal population requirements, no part of a county shall be added to all or part of another county in forming districts. Within counties whose territory is contained in more than one district, the number of cities and towns whose territory is contained in more than one district shall be as few as possible.
  • Consistent with the preceding criteria, communities of interest including ethnic, cultural, economic trade area, geographic and demographic factors shall be preserved within a single district wherever possible.

HISTORY

Considerable confusion exists between the words “reapportionment” and “redistricting.” In the past, LWVCO has used the two definitions: “Redistricting” to describe the drawing of Congressional representations and “Reapportionment” to describe the redrawing of State representations. In 2011 the LWVCO position was changed to reflect the fact that the process done by the state is “Redistricting.” “Reapportionment” is the assignment to each state of a number of congressional representatives. It’s a federal process, mandated by the U.S. Constitution, although Congress chooses the exact formula used.

“Redistricting” is the redrawing of Congressional and General Assembly district lines. It’s a process totally controlled by the individual states, subject to using equal population and adherence to the 1964 Voting Rights Act, as well as other state constitutional and statutory requirements and certain federal laws and U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Although Colorado’s original constitution stated that there should be redistricting every five years, this was ignored until 1891. After that, the districts of the General Assembly were redrawn in 1901, 1913, 1933 (by initiative petition) and 1953.

Redistricting was a concern and a problem throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Colorado lawmakers worked on legislative redistricting for seven consecutive years beginning in 1961. There were problems with the district structure at the time and the application of Supreme Court rulings.

Because the 1962 General Assembly rejected all redistricting proposals which were submitted to it by the Legislative Council, 1962 elections were based on Senatorial districts which ranged from 17,381 to 127,520 in population and Representative districts which ranged from 7,520 in Huerfano County to 63,910 in Jefferson County. Colorado was one of the states involved in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of 1964 that required both houses of state legislatures to have membership based on population and districts as nearly equal in population as practicable.

After the 1970 census, redistricting was considered by the 1972 legislature. The session was the longest on record to date; as many as 90 of the 150 days of the session were spent on discussion of redistricting proposals. The resulting plan was challenged by the minority party, and the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that while the plan met the criterion of equal population, several districts were not compact enough. A reworked plan was submitted to the court for scrutiny before the final vote was taken by the legislature. The idea of an independent non-partisan redistricting commission surfaced, but it soon became apparent that the legislature would not cooperate.

The League of Women Voters had been involved in the redistricting process since 1956, but our early positions did not include the one person/one vote principle. Early on, the position stated that the districts of only one house needed to be drawn based on population and that the districts of the other house could be drawn based on population with area considerations. In 1962 the position was changed to state that districts of the legislature should be based on population, but that the number represented could vary from 33% above to 33% below a strict population ratio.

In 1973 the LWVCO reviewed the old positions and, with the memory of the 1972 legislative session in mind, adopted a position supporting an independent agency for redrawing of the state legislative districts using certain criteria such as population, compactness, etc.

With this new position, LWVCO initiated a citizen amendment to the constitution that would take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature. To put the amendment on the 1974 ballot, over 57,000 signatures were gathered from all over the state by the LWVCO with the help of the Colorado Bar Association and other organizations.

The amendment gave the job of redistricting to a Reapportionment Commission (its legal name) with appointed members and a deadline for submitting a plan to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.

The new Reapportionment Commission convened in July, 1981 and adjourned in March, 1982. LWVCO monitored the entire session of the new commission. The object was to observe the process to see if it worked. In the League’s opinion it did.

LWVCO Convention in 1983 amended the League’s position to include an independent agency to draw the U.S. Congressional redistricting lines.

After the 2000 census, the General Assembly failed to agree on redrawing the congressional districts; thus, the Colorado courts drew the new boundaries for the seven congressional districts. That move has increased interest in a non-partisan process for redistricting, but the mechanisms to be used differ. League favors a reorganization of the Reapportionment Commission to
make it responsible for redrawing the congressional districts as well as the state legislative districts.

Several attempts have been made by the General Assembly to change the composition of the Reapportionment Commission, as well as one attempt to change the criteria. All failed. However, in 2003 the Republican legislature attempted to draw the lines a second time after the 2000 census. The state Supreme Court ruled against the constitutionality of a second redistricting plan and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, leaving the original plan in place.
In 2010 a bill passed that LWVCO opposed, reworking the criteria to be used by the court if the legislature could not reach a redistricting plan. The new criteria were looser than LWVCO’s preferred criteria and not prioritized in the same way and allowed the possibility of non-neutral criteria to be used.

In 2011 a bipartisan committee of House and Senate members attempted to redraw Congressional districts and it was hoped that without a new district to add this could be done without resorting to the courts. However, the committee was unable to produce a single map and subsequent House and Senate maps were defeated. In December, the Denver District Court, affirmed by the Colorado Supreme Court, ruled in favor of the Moreno/South map.