The state of Colorado is divided into voting districts, and two proposed Colorado amendments (Y and Z) to the state’s constitution for the Nov. 6 general election propose to change how the boundaries of those House and Senate districts are redrawn.
If they were to pass, it would require an independent commission consisting of an equal number of members from each of the state’s two largest parties (Republican and Democrat), as well as unaffiliated voters, to amend a proposed new map created by nonpartisan legislative staff. Lobbyists and politicians would not be allowed to serve on the commission.
The need to redraw district boundaries occurs because the U.S. Census Bureau counts the population of the United States every 10 years, apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives according to population. Colorado currently has seven seats in the House of Representatives. Because of shifts in population between states and within state borders, redrawing voting district boundaries to balance the population contained in each district has to be done following each census. The Colorado constitution stipulates that it is a legislative responsibility.
Therein lies the need. Proponents of these amendments call this “a limit on the role of partisan politics” in the redistricting process, creating a system of checks and balances to assure that no one political party can create a district map that favors one party over another.
Advocates say that it would encourage compromise and add structure to what has become a highly partisan process depending upon which party is in control of the state House. They say that instead of all the meetings happening at the state Capitol, the amendments would allow the commission to move about the state, seeking bipartisan input and allowing residents to participate in the process.
They also point out that the term “gerrymandering” came into being because of the situation they are trying to eliminate. The political term dates back to 1812, when Gov. Elbridge Gerry oversaw the redrawing of senatorial boundaries in Massachusetts to give unfair advantage to his political party over its rivals for the office.
Opponents of both amendments say that it takes accountability out of the redistricting process because unlike state legislators who are subject to election and campaign finance requirements, appointed commissioners aren’t legally accountable to Colorado voters. They cite unnecessary complexity and complain that the amendments don’t make it clear what a “competitive district” is or what factors would need to be considered.