Amidst a nearly broken Legislature racked this year by partisanship, malfeasance, extremism and obstinacy, Colorado lawmakers pulled off a nearly miraculous feat that could reform political redistricting to make it better and more fair for everybody.
The 2018 Legislative session was dragged down by a bevy of sexual harassment scandals that only got worse as some political leaders in the state House and Senate, from both sides of the aisle, made a mockery of the #MeToo movement and Colorado’s longstanding reputation of political integrity.
The session from the beginning was dogged with partisanship that killed numerous good bills and created 11th-hour fixes for critical issues such as transportation and state employee pensions. The details and effect of those bills are still unclear.
It’s clear, however, that state lawmakers should be lauded for setting aside their zealous addiction to partisanship and agree to change the way the state re-draws political boundaries after ever Census. That’s just around the corner.
In the past, the party in power at the Capitol has capitalized on the muscle behind even a one-vote majority and re-drawn state House, Senate and Congressional district lines to suit their own partisan desires.
Such gerrymander offenses in place such as Texas and Pennsylvania have institutionalized corruption, allowing parties in power to lock that in. It precludes fair and energized elections that encourage candidates to represent entire constituencies, right or left, not just their political voting base.
Such political manipulation is dispiriting, creating a spiraling down effect where those who disagree with the party in power don’t even bother to vote or participate in the world’s most powerful democracy.
This time, state lawmakers didn’t wait for the usual legislative battle and stalemate to turn out political redistricting maps, ultimately created by the courts in Colorado. This time, state lawmakers from both parties, in both houses, backed by political activists from all sides, worked out compromise plans to turn the redistricting process over to a redesigned, bi-partisan and non-partisan commission — which requires deciding votes be made by non-affiliated state residents.
It’s a model of fairness, integrity and maturity.
The new panel has four Democrats, four Republicans and four unaffiliated voters, and any map must be approved by at least eight votes. But the critical part is that no map can be approved unless at least two unaffiliated voters sign on. The prevents political parties from colluding on maps in corrupt quid-pro-quo scenarios.
The measure received the blessing of non-partisan groups such as Colorado Common Cause, as well as both political parties. It now goes to voters this fall for approval, which we insist on.
Despite a year of rough political weather, the sun absolutely came out at the end of the session when the Legislature approved this important measure and sent it to Gov. Hickenlooper for his signature.
While it’s still unclear what the final impact will be on other critical issues spun out by lawmakers at the last minute, this redistricting legislation creates great hope for the future.