Results of Census will determine future reapportionment, redistricting - Colorado Politics

Results of Census will determine future reapportionment, redistricting

Author: - February 20, 2010 - Updated: February 20, 2010


Long after the concern about medical marijuana is settled, the 2010 and 2011 legislatures will be dealing with reapportionment of the congressional districts and the state legislative districts. One person will decide which political party will control the state legislative districts. That person will be the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court.

The state constitution in Article 5, section 48 (1) (a) states of the eleven-member reapportionment commission, four will be appointed “by the judicial department of the state.” However section 48 (1) (b) states, “the four judicial members shall be appointed by the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court…” A wise justice might well run his or her names through the other six members of the court, but the language in the constitution does not lend weight to any vote by all seven justices.

Six of the seven justices on the court were there in the 2001 reapportionment and familiar with the process. Two of them, Nathan Coats and Greg Hobbs are not subject to an election in 2010. Four of them are: Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, and Nancy Rice. Justice Hobbs has been involved in successfully picking through portions of past commission decisions and providing suggested alternatives.

He certainly hit hard in early 2002, writing a 4-3 decision refuting the commission decisions pointing out, “It appears … the Commission considered itself at liberty to start the cartography reapportionment at any point of Colorado geography it might choose.” This was one of a number of “irritations.” Several weeks later, Justice Hobbs reviewing the revisions then made, stated, “The readopted plan provides whole Senate districts to Boulder, Douglas, Jefferson, and Pueblo counties for which they qualify based on the year 2000 census data … and Arapahoe County.”

The five counties which had seven senators under the original plan, now had 12 senators. And Justice Hobbs pointed out near the end of the final decisions “We (the court) do not redraw the reapportionment for the Commission.” Based on the 2002 court decision the starting point for the new map in 2012 will likely be the Denver, Jefferson, Arapahoe and Adams County cluster.

The first four commissioners are the Senate President, Senate Minority Leader, the House Speaker and the House Minority Leader, or their designees. The next three are chosen by the governor who can pick all three from one political party. The last four are chosen by the Chief Justice. No more than six can be from the same political party. The choices under the present constitutional language have been 1982, Republicans 6 to 5; 1992, Republican — Democratic tie, 5 to 5, one independent; 2002, Democrats 6 to 5.

Every legislator who “might” be around in 2011 ought to obtain, keep and reread many times In Re Reapportionment of Colorado General Assembly, 45 P 3rd 1237 (2000) and 46 P 3rd 1083 (2002) and review Part 5 of Article 2, Title 2 of CRS 2-2-501 to 511.

On Congressional Districts

Voters are no more equal as to their “worth” than they are in voting for the General Assembly. Within months the numbers will only reflect where voters decide to reside regardless of the lack of equality in representation.

The state constitution Article 5, Section 44 provides, “The general assembly shall divide the state into as many congressional districts as there are representatives in congress apportioned to the state by the Congress of the United States for the election of one representative to congress from each district. When a new appointment shall be made by congress, the general assembly shall divide the state into congressional districts accordingly.

If the general assembly and the governor are unable to enact a plan for congressional redistricting, the district court is forced to adopt a plan, Beauprez vs. Avalos, 2002. It is not subject to later revision by the legislature until after the next census, Salazar vs. Davidson 79 P 3rd 1221 (2003).

Unless there is some change in civility, a district court judge sitting in Denver may draw the 2012 congressional districts.

Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House and was reapportioned in 1966, 1972, 1982 and retired in 1992.

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