Colorado's Redistricting News
General Assembly v. Ken Salazar on petition for writ of
certiorari to the supreme court of Colorado. June 7, 2004
Colorado Republicans lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday over whether a congressional map favorable to Democrats is permanent until after the next census in 2010.
A fractured court refused to consider replacing that map with a GOP-drafted redistricting plan, a defeat for Republicans who have sought to reopen the boundary-drawing process in several states to protect their control of the House.
The Colorado Supreme Court had ruled last December that Republicans violated the state Constitution by pushing a new map through the Legislature just a year after a judge had redrawn the boundaries. District drawing may be done only once a decade, the court decided.
Justices refused Monday to consider an appeal of that decision. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas wrote separately to say the court was wrong not to hear the case.
States must redraw congressional districts every 10 years to reflect population shifts. Colorado's redistricting after the 2000 census was handled by a judge because lawmakers were not able to agree on new boundaries.
The dispute began when Republicans took control of the state Legislature and decided in 2003 to draw new congressional districts.
Five of Colorado's seven congressional seats are held by Republicans, but the new map made GOP seats safer from Democratic challenges.
Washington attorney Michael Carvin, representing Republicans in the Supreme Court appeal, had asked the justices if "the people of Colorado are utterly powerless to overturn a lone judge's policy preferences for the next eight years."
Carvin urged justices to revisit election law issues raised in the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, which effectively called the deadlocked presidential election for George W. Bush.
Attorney General Ken Salazar, a Democrat, warned that the court should not allow "undesirable political instability in Colorado" with repeated do-overs of redistricting that could confuse voters and candidates.
"Colorado's congressional districts may change at the whim of the state legislature, forcing congressional representatives to choose between effectively representing their current constituents and currying the favor of future constituents who will determine their fates in the next election," the attorney general's filing said.
Redistricting has been a difficult subject for the Supreme Court. In April, justices split sharply over what courts can do about partisan gerrymandering. Four justices said the courts should be closed to such cases.
A challenge over Colorado's redistricting has been on hold in federal court pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
Besides Colorado, Texas is also a state where Republican lawmakers spearheaded new redistricting. Appeals over that are pending at the Supreme Court.
The case is Colorado General Assembly v. Salazar, 03-1082.
Two weeks after it allowed a controversial Republican-drawn congressional map in Texas to stand, the Supreme Court has sided with Democrats in a fight over a new map in Colorado. The court yesterday rejected a plea by Colorado Republicans to allow use in this year's elections of a new map signed into law last year. That map was more favorable to GOP candidates than a plan implemented for the 2002 elections by a Colorado judge after the state legislature, then divided between a Republican House and a Democratic Senate, failed to agree on a plan. But Democrats sued, and the state Supreme Court ruled Dec. 1 that Colorado's constitution sets a limit of one redrawing of congressional lines per decade. The Supreme Court's refusal to allow use of the GOP-drawn map improves Democratic chances in the 3rd District, where Rep. Scott McInnis is retiring, and the Denver-area 7th, where Republican Bob Beauprez won by 121 votes in the closest House race of the 2002 cycle.
Republican lawmakers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to make a fast decision to keep a GOP-drawn congressional redistricting map in place for this year's Colorado elections.
The Republican-led Colorado General Assembly argued that unless the high court granted a stay by mid-February, state and local election officials would be forced to move forwrd based on a map dictated by a judge instead of elected officials in the General Assembly.
"This judicial usurpation of the legislature's plenary power over congressional redistricting squarely conflicts with the Elections Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) and necessitates prompt corrective action by this Court," said the brief.
The request was filed late Monday but became widely known Tuesday, triggering another round of partisan bickering.
State Democrats denounced the filing, blasting Republicans for prolonging the two-year redistricting fight, for wasting taxpayer dollars and for hiring a prominent attorney who helped President Bush win the Florida recount battle in 2000.
"This circus would be amusing if it weren't so expensive," said House Democratic leader Andrew Romanoff of Denver. "The fight over redistricting has already cost our state too much time and too much money. Let's get back to work."
Said Senate President John Andrews, a Republican: "This is not about Republicans and Democrats. It's about the constitutional authority of the General Assembly to draw the congressional map."
The balance of power in the state's seven-member U.S. House delegation could be affected.
The GOP map would have given Republicans five relatively safe seats, with two considered safe for Democrats in Denver and Boulder.
If the judge's map stands, Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez's 7th Congressional District would remain one of the most closely divided districts in the country.
And, with the retirement of Republican Rep. Scott McInnis, Democrats also consider the 3rd Congressional District competitive.
In 2002, a federal judge drew congressional boundaries considered more favorable to Democrats after legislators failed to reach agreement on a redistricting map. Last year, Republicans rammed their version through both houses in the final three days of the legislative session.
Democrats sued and the state Supreme Court tossed out the GOP map on Dec. 1, saying the court-
drawn map was the only legal map. It also said the Colorado Constitution bars more than one congressional redistricting map every 10 years after a census, regardless of who draws it.
Last week, a three-judge federal court panel refused to intervene unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the state court's ruling.
The Republican court filing cites several cases related to the controversial Florida presidential recount in 2000.
Citing Bush v. Gore, it argues that rather than giving the legislature the power to determine policy, the state Supreme Court let a judge decide.
"The court's decision thus assures that the people of Colorado are utterly powerless to overturn a lone judge's policy preferences for the next eight years," the legal brief argues.
Regardless of whether a stay or injunction is granted, the Republicans plan to file papers in the next two days asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case over the long term.
Democrats were furious over the decision to appeal and the hiring of Michael Carvin, a lawyer with the law firm of Jones Day.
He was one of the lead lawyers who argued on behalf of now-President Bush in the Florida recount.
"Under the cover of darkness and on the taxpayer dollar, Republicans have hired the Washington, D.C., office of an international high-priced law firm to represent the General Assembly," Democrats said in a news release.
Democrats claimed nearly $250,000 in taxpayer dollars already have been spent to represent the legislature and said Secretary of State Donetta Davidson has had $500,000 in legal and administrative costs over redistricting.
Democrats fired off a letter to Andrews, R-Centennial, and House Speaker Lola Spradley, R-Beulah, asking them to stop the court battle - a request that was immediately rejected.
"We obviously think this is an issue where the state of Colorado has been fundamentally disenfranchised by the courts," said House Majority Leader Keith King.
"So we want to take this issue as far as we possibly can. We knew this would probably end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, so we're going to continue that process to find justice."
Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Ken Gordon of Denver had his own take on the controversy.
"They're not doing this for the people of the state of Colorado," he said. "This is a narrow, partisan, selfish agenda for the Republicans in this state to have safe seats."
Colorado Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to temporarily block the state's congressional redistricting map, which favors Democrats, saying state Supreme Court justices wrongly threw out their own plan.
If a stay is granted, Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson would use the GOP-drawn alternative in November's elections, which includes two hotly contested races.
Republican state legislators said the existing redistricting plan, passed in 2002, violates Colorado's constitution because it was drawn up by a judge and not state lawmakers.
The Colorado Supreme Court tossed out the GOP alternative, saying the judge had the right to draw the map because lawmakers took too long to come up with one themselves.
Republican lawmakers then appealed to the high court.
State Democrats had no immediate comment on the appeal.
Last week, three federal judges rejected a separate GOP challenge over
Colorado's redistricting map, but stayed their ruling to see if the U.S.
Supreme Court takes up the issue.
A three-judge federal panel on
Friday rejected a challenge by the Republican-dominated Legislature over
Colorado's congressional redistricting map, but stayed the ruling to see
if the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue.
If you listened closely when the Colorado Supreme Court decision in Salazar vs. Davidson was handed down Monday, you could hear the sound of one hand clapping.
The ruling restored the congressional district lines drawn by a state judge in 2002, handing the Democrats a psychological victory, even though what they really could use is a few victories at the polls.
Still, they had reason to gloat.
The majority on the court said that, yes, the attorney general had the right to bring the case, and yes, the courts may handle redistricting duties if the legislature fails to agree on a plan, and no, the legislature cannot redraw congressional district boundaries any time it gets the urge.
The justices cited the importance of accountability and stability, tiptoeing gingerly around the elephant and the donkey in the middle of the room.
The role of partisanship in the process was never mentioned.
So while this is a momentous decision for the individuals involved in this bitter controversy, it soon will be overshadowed by a case that is more audacious, relevant and potentially precedent-setting nationwide.
Next week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Vieth vs. Jubelirer, the Pennsylvania redistricting case, which dares to ask the shocking question: Should partisanship even be allowed in the process?
When the justices rule on this one next year, the response could be deafening.
"If they side with the plaintiffs on this case, it will be one of the most important Supreme Court cases on law and politics in the last 50 years," said Nathaniel Persily, assistant professor of constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
If the Republican-dominated court throws out the redistricting plan conceived by a Republican majority in Pennsylvania and signed by a GOP governor, it would be "open season" on gerrymandering, Persily said.
The plaintiffs in Vieth contend that drawing congressional districts for the purpose of minimizing the chances that a certain party's candidates will be elected is unconstitutional.
Never mind that it's been the magnificent obsession in state after state for decades - it could be thrown out.
If you doubt that's possible, consider this: At one time it was groundbreaking for the court to insist on numerical proportionality in congressional districts. That was the 1964 one-man, one-vote ruling.
"It's an interesting question why they took this case," said Persily. Usually the court steers clear from redistricting cases because they are considered a "partisan thicket," destined to damage the image of the independent judiciary, he said.
But the controversies involving redistricting in Colorado and Texas this year may have pushed the issue onto the docket.
"They may want to send a signal that there are some limits to the greediness of incumbent political parties that want to entrench themselves," Persily said.
While partisan greed is hardly new, it has become more voracious.
Partisanship is "at a 30-year high," said Persily, and voters are behaving more predictably than ever.
Part of this is a direct result of gerrymandering producing "safe" congressional districts where elected officials feel little need to compromise or broaden their appeal.
Further, the political parties have become enormously powerful with extremely well-financed national operations that leave almost nothing to chance.
But most important, technology has revolutionized redistricting. So much sophisticated data can be analyzed at once now, congressional districts intended to guarantee certain results can be drawn to cynical near-perfection. Only 10 to 15 percent of congressional districts are competitive anymore.
Neither party has the monopoly on this approach, of course. But it's not surprising that support for ginning up some kind of nonpartisan, bipartisan, independent commission for the purpose of drawing congressional districts usually comes from those in the minority party.
Several states, including Iowa, Arizona, Washington, Montana and New Jersey, have created such systems.
State Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, and Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, on Tuesday announced plans to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would create a bipartisan group similar to the commission charged with legislative redistricting to handle future congressional boundaries.
But while Persily acknowledges the mess that "partisan greed" has made of the electoral process, he is hardly an unabashed fan of so-called "independent" commissions.
"In American politics, we've tried our best to craft independent offices," he said. But getting the partisanship out of politics is like trying to take the sex out of porn.
Just look at what happened with the independent counsel statute, he said. "Would you trust Ken Starr to be in charge of redistricting?"
Now that's a frightening image. And it's a reminder that when it comes to vain political self-interest, things can always get worse.
Diane Carman's column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.
DENVER - In a decision with national
implications, the Colorado Supreme Court threw out the state's new
congressional districts Monday saying the GOP-led Legislature redrew the
maps in violation of the state constitution.
Senate President John Andrews demanded Thursday to know how much the congressional redistricting case has cost the attorney general's office.
Deputy Attorney General Don Quick said the tab had not been calculated but that his office would figure it out soon.
The exchange came during a meeting of the legislature's Interim Committee on Government Expenditures, which is reviewing the expenses of state agencies.
The redistricting case is estimated to have cost the state more than $300,000 since last year.
Quick said that Solicitor General Alan Gilbert and two assistant lawyers have worked on the case, along with their legal staffs. But the lawyers have not worked exclusively on redistricting, nor has the office diverted resources from other cases.
Quick said that Gilbert and other lawyers also have been working to defend the state against challenges to new laws on guns, vouchers, the Pledge of Allegiance and campaign finance. All were Republican-sponsored measures, as was redistricting.
Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar sued the state in May, challenging the new redistricting map, which pre-empted a court-approved plan. Andrews, R-Centennial, contends Salazar is wasting the state's money and does not have the authority to sue his own state because his job is to defend it.
Quick said that although the attorney general's office charges other state agencies $62.90 an hour for a lawyer's services - far less than the private sector, which charges $100 to $350 an hour - the cost to taxpayers for redistricting is far lower.
To calculate Gilbert's share, the attorney general's office will take his annual salary of roughly $100,000 and divide it by the number of hours he has worked on the case.
Quick also noted that since his office is suing rather than defending the secretary of state in the redistricting case, it transferred $50,000 to her office's legal fund in June. He said his office also transferred $150,000 to the governor's office last year when a separate redistricting battle was in state district court.
Salazar's case is now before the state Supreme Court.
Opponents in a congressional redistricting battle squared off before the Colorado Supreme Court on Monday in a historic case that could affect how Colorado and other states decide political boundaries in the future.
For three hours, the seven justices listened to arguments and questioned opposing attorneys representing Attorney General Ken Salazar and Secretary of State Donetta Davidson. The lawyers focused on whether new congressional boundary lines should be allowed to remain, and whether Salazar has the authority to sue an executive branch agency in the state's highest court.
The state legislature did not have the authority to redraw congressional district boundaries this year, argued Solicitor General Alan Gilbert, representing Salazar. A district court approved a redistricting plan last year when a divided legislature failed to act.
"Once a valid plan is in place, you can't do it again until the next census comes around," Gilbert argued.
He spoke before a standing-room-only crowd of politicians, lawyers and citizen activists in a fifth-floor courtroom of the Supreme Court building at East 14th Avenue and Lincoln Street.
Attorney Richard Westfall, defending the legislature, argued that under the state constitution, the General Assembly does have authority to draw boundaries once a decade. He cited a provision in state law that says the legislature "shall" draw district lines once every 10 years. The court's ruling on the boundaries in 2002 did not take away the general assembly's right to redraw them, he said.
"This is clearly a case about the power of the General Assembly," Westfall argued. "It is not the power of the court."
Justice Greg Hobbs grilled lawyers for Republicans, asking if the constitution's requiring the legislature to draw congressional lines only matters when a party has a majority in the legislature.
"Is that what triggers the constitution?" he asked.
Salazar sued Davidson in May after the GOP-controlled General Assembly pushed the new redistricting legislation through in the final three days of the session and Republican Gov. Bill Owens signed it into law. Salazar contends the plan is illegal because the constitution calls for redistricting only once every 10 years after a federal census.
Colorado has had two plans in less than two years, one approved by a judge, the second by Republicans in the General Assembly. Democrats opposed the second.
Attorneys for Owens and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a party to Salazar's suit, also presented shorter arguments.
The newly drawn plan is designed to strengthen the Republican grip on five of Colorado's seven congressional seats. It is part of a nationwide movement with which President Bush's political adviser Karl Rove has been involved.
The Colorado court's ruling could determine what other states do. Twenty other states have one-party control in their legislatures and may consider changing their congressional boundaries to give one party or other a greater advantage in Congress.
"This is a historic day," Udall said at a news conference outside the courtroom. "I believe it will lead to a historic decision in that you can only draw congressional districts once a decade.
"It's really about doing the right thing," the Democratic congressman said. "We can play games in this state or we can play fair. That's what this boils down to."
In his own news conference, Republican Senate President John Andrews accused Salazar of wasting taxpayer dollars.
"The attorney general suing his own client is bizarre," said Andrews, who represents Centennial. "It's like one of the Broncos tackling his own player. ... I hope the court will blow that play dead."
The court is expected to rule this fall in the high-profile case, according to legal experts. If the court rules, it will create a new law for Colorado. The court also could decide the case doesn't belong before the Supreme Court.
But whether the court upholds the law or strikes it down, it will serve to clarify a statute now open to interpretation.
If the court allows the law to stand, it could mean the start of other redistrictings nationwide.
Texas is in the midst of a fierce redistricting battle with Republicans trying to change the balance of power in Washington. Democrats in that state now have a 17-15 edge in the House. In Colorado, Republicans have an advantage of five seats to two.
Congressional district boundaries must be redrawn after every census to ensure each district has an equal number of residents.
In Colorado, the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-led House failed to agree on new boundaries in 2002, and Denver District Judge John Coughlin wound up approving a map that left four of Colorado's seven congressional districts under GOP control. Two districts gave Democrats an advantage. The new 7th Congressional District was nearly evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Republican Bob Beauprez won the seat by a 121-vote margin last November.
When the Republicans gained control of the legislature this year, they approved a map that shifted 27,000 Republicans into the 7th District in Denver's north and west suburbs and changed other districts enough to give Republicans an advantage in future elections.
The Supreme Court justices on Monday also heard arguments on whether Salazar has the power to sue other state agencies.
Lawyers Richard Kaufman and Shayne Madsen argued that the attorney general does not have independent authority to sue his own clients. Nor, they said, does he have authority to use taxpayer dollars to challenge the constitutionality of "a duly enacted piece of legislation."
Acknowledging that the case was "very rare," Gilbert argued that the attorney general's power came not only from state law but from his oath to uphold the constitution. "When the attorney general is convinced that a statute is unconstitutional it is his duty to act to resolve the case appropriately," Gilbert said.
Outside the courtroom, Salazar said that the average citizen should care about the redistricting case because multiple redistrictings sap the energy of the political process, which should be devoted to working on critical issues such as education and roads. He said multiple redistrictings also could negatively affect the stability of Congress and leave citizens unrepresented in Washington.
DENVER -- The bill was introduced on a Monday, passed on Wednesday and signed into law on Friday. There was minimal debate and no time for public comment. Still, Colorado statute SB-352 could be a political milestone: the first successful application of a new tactic being pushed by Republican leaders in Washington.
The Colorado law redraws the borders of all of the state's congressional districts -- just two years after the redistricting that followed the 2000 Census. The sole purpose, as leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature confirm, was to strengthen the party's majority in the state's congressional delegation.
A similar effort at re-redistricting failed in May in Texas, when Democratic legislators decamped to Oklahoma, making a quorum impossible in the state House of Representatives. But on Monday, Texas Republicans started to try again; Gov. Rick Perry (R) has called a special session to redraw that state's 2001 congressional map. The session is to run for 30 days, making it harder for Democrats to thwart action.
If Texas this time follows the Colorado model, Democrats have warned that they might retaliate, redrawing congressional district maps to strengthen their party in New Mexico and Oklahoma, where Democrats control both the legislature and the governor's office.
"This is a political strategy we haven't seen before," said Tim Storey, redistricting analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "People who study this area can't find any case in the last 100 years of mid-decade redistricting without a court order."
Colorado's new congressional map, passed on straight party-line votes in the last half-hour before the legislature adjourned May 7, has been dubbed the "midnight gerrymander." GOP legislators have been roundly condemned in the local media for violating the state's generally congenial political traditions. "Children, children, what do you think this is? New Jersey?" complained Denver Post political columnist Fred Brown.
GOP leaders are unapologetic.
"Nonpartisanship is not an option," state Senate President John Andrews wrote in a newspaper column responding to critics. "There are only two kinds of Congress to choose from: one where . . . Republicans hold the majority, or one where . . . Democrats do."
Republicans won five of the state's seven House seats in the 2002 election. But Andrews contended that the GOP seats had to be made safer, particularly in the new suburban Denver district and in the sprawling district that makes up the western half of the state. "The Democrats' failure to win either seat in 2002 was small comfort," Andrews said. "The numbers were going to favor them in time."
"Redistricting is almost always a corrupt business," notes Robert Richie, executive director of the Takoma Park-based Center for Voting and Democracy. "But what just happened in Colorado is really disgusting, because what they had before was one of the best districts in the country in terms of being responsive to the voters."
In an era in which most congressional districts are drawn to guarantee safe seats for one party or the other, Colorado bucked the trend after the 2000 Census. The state's new 7th Congressional District was designed to be a political tossup, with one-third of the voters Republican, one-third Democratic and one-third unaffiliated.
Sure enough, the suburban Denver district produced the closest House race in the nation last fall. After several recounts, Republican Bob Beauprez won the seat by 122 votes out of 162,938 cast.
For Republican leaders, that margin was too close, particularly with Democrat Mike Feeley likely to run again in 2004. The legislature's new map gives Beauprez a safe seat, with the most Democratic parts of the 7th Congressional District moved to other districts.
For good measure, Feeley's home was redistricted out of the district, making it nearly impossible for him to challenge Beauprez next year. Beyond the 7th Congressional District, the new Colorado map involves many familiar features of the gerrymandering genre.
Heavily Hispanic Pueblo County has been divided down the middle, so its traditionally Democratic vote will be diluted within two strong Republican districts.
The new map removes the Democrats' stronghold of Aspen from the western-slope district, making that district much safer for Republicans.
Aspen's vote has been shifted into a K-shaped district centered on the university town of Boulder -- about a five-hour drive from Aspen -- so that the two Democratic cities will be in the same district.
Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, a Democrat, has challenged the re-redistricting in the state's Supreme Court, saying the state constitution authorizes only one districting plan per decade. A group of Democratic voters has filed a second challenge to the GOP measure in a lower state court.
"I wouldn't be surprised if this case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court," said David Fine, the Denver attorney representing the plaintiffs. "Somebody has to decide whether it is legal to redistrict without a new census requiring it."
The trend to create safe congressional districts is a major reason that House incumbents almost never lose and that retiring members are almost always succeeded by members of the same party.
In the 2002 election, 38 of the 435 House races were considered competitive, with margins of victory less than 10 percentage points. Only four House members lost their seats to challengers in 2002; four others were beaten by fellow incumbents.
DENVER ñ The stateís high court issued an order Friday allowing U.S. Rep. Mark Udall to intervene in a case challenging the Republican-controlled Colorado Legislatureís attempt to redraw congressional district lines.
The lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Ken Salazar last month, challenges the constitutionality of redistricting more than once in the same decade.
In the past two years, when the Colorado Senate was controlled by Democrats and the House by Republicans, the Legislature failed in several attempts to agree on how new lines would be drawn. The matter was ultimately settled in Denver District Court and upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court.
Those were the lines used in last yearís general elections.
"I sought to be a party in this case because I strongly believe that the redistricting bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor last May was a disgraceful exercise in partisanship, and a power grab that does a disservice to the people of Colorado," said Udall, D-Boulder.
"I am gratified that the Colorado Supreme Court has allowed me to continue this fight alongside Ken Salazar."
Salazar, a Democrat, said the new map approved by the Legislature in the last three days of this yearí session, which ended last month, violates constitutional provisions that limit redistricting to once a decade after new U.S. Census figures are released.
The high court dismissed Republican efforts to block Udall from entering into the case. Republican attorneys had filed motions to the court asking it to deny Udallís request to become a petitioner, saying he lacked standing to join the case.
Secretary of State Donetta Davidson has argued that the attorney general is bound by the state constitution to represent her office, and has asked the court to block Salazar from suing her.
Udall sought to intervene in the case to preserve the lawsuit if a judge decides Salazar canít sue Davidson. Udall has called the Legislatureís actions partisan and wrong.
The new map increases the number of registered Republican voters in two districts: the newly formed 7th Congressional District and the 3rd, which includes Southwest Colorado.
Under the new map, the 3rd District would have about 36.35 percent registered Republicans, 31.55 percent Democratic and 32.1 percent unaffiliated voters. The map used during last yearís general election has 34.65 percent registered Republicans, 33.44 Democrats and 31.91 unaffiliated voters in the district.
Under the new map, the district loses Las Animas, Huerfano and Pitkin counties, part of Otero County and most of Pueblo County. The district gains Grand, Lake and Chaffee counties and part of Fremont County.
The new map increased the number of Democratic voters in Udallís 2nd District and the 1st District, held by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Utah Republican Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is backing Colorado's Democratic attorney general in a partisan showdown over the most bitterly contested congressional redistricting in Colorado history.
Shurtleff is among 44 state attorneys general defending Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar and his right to challenge the Centennial State's newly redrawn political boundaries as unconstitutional.
The chief legal officers filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday with the Colorado Supreme Court.
The political move might seem out of character for Shurtleff, especially considering he made no effort to challenge Utah's own controversial Republican-approved redistricting plan.
But Chief Deputy Attorney General Ray Hintze insists "this is not a Republican/Democrat issue. This is about balance of powers and duties."
Shurtleff's brief doesn't discuss merits of the case. It simply defends Salazar's "prerogative and duty to initiate litigation on behalf of the people of the state without interference from any other state agency or official."
Salazar, Colorado's highest Democratic officeholder, has sued the secretary of the state to prevent a rogue, Republican-backed remapping of political boundaries from going into effect. He argues the legislation "is contrary to the [state] constitutional provision that allows for congressional redistricting only once after each Census."
Colorado's Republican-controlled Legislature redrew the state's political map even though a plan had already been approved by a court. The issue was first placed in court hands when a split legislature couldn't agree on a map.
The edited version was pushed through in the final days of the legislative session and signed by Republican Gov. Bill Owens with little debate or public notice. It gives Republicans the advantage in five of seven districts statewide.
Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson filed a motion to stop Salazar from interfering, arguing it is his duty to defend the state, not sue it. Davidson's motion was denied. But the court is requiring Salazar to justify his involvement.
Monday's amicus brief is an attempt to do just that, said Hintze. "The AG is independently elected. We believe our prime client is the public, and many times the public interest is different than that of the governor or other elected officials who we also represent."
Hintze stressed that Shurtleff himself has taken heat for taking sides with Utah Democrats on policy issues, such as the recent bid to pass hate crimes legislation.
Idaho's Lawrence Wasden, also a Republican, is among the few AGs not to join the brief. "This is an issue in the state court of Colorado and he did not feel as if Idaho had a compelling interest," said Wasden's spokesman Bob Cooper.
Courts commonly pen maps when lawmakers can't agree on their own once-in-a-decade redistricting scheme. It is not unprecedented for states to revise court maps, but they have only done so when court-ordered plans were found to be illegal.
Democratic lawmakers blasted Republicans on Tuesday for using taxpayer money to defend the redrawn congressional districts in court. At a meeting of legislative leaders, Republicans from the House and Senate voted to hire attorney Richard Westfall with the Denver firm Hale Hackstaff Tymkovich to defend the General Assembly in two separate redistricting actions in state court and before the Colorado Supreme Court.
Normally, the state's attorney general, Ken Salazar, would defend the legislature. But Salazar, a Democrat, has challenged the Republican-backed redistricting.
Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, leader of the Senate Democrats, and Rep. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, leader of the House Democrats, opposed Westfall's hiring. They suggested the legislature use "gifts, grants and donations" to hire the lawyers.
"We have misgivings about charging taxpayers for any of this," Fitz-Gerald said.
Fitz-Gerald and Veiga said they would hire lawyers at their own expense to support Salazar's challenge before the Colorado Supreme Court.
Republican leaders said they are within their rights to hire an attorney to defend the legislature. Sen. Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, blamed the Democrats for suing over the new law to begin with.
Democrats are suing the legislature in state court over a law pushed by Republicans in the final three days of the session and signed by Gov. Bill Owens on May 9 that redrew the state's congressional districts. The suit contends the redrawn map unfairly solidifies Republican domination in five of seven districts.
Salazar last week went directly to the state Supreme Court with a separate challenge, asking the court to overturn the redistricting on the grounds that the legislature had no authority to redraw the boundaries after a state judge set the lines last year.
There's plenty of spin about Republicans drawing a new map of congressional districts in the legislature's closing days. A lot of the talk is wrong or so incomplete it's impossible to get a fair picture. I'm happy to try to respond to some of the issues and partisan charges.
The legislature had no right to draw congressional districts because the courts already did it.
Actually, the state Constitution very clearly assigns lawmakers the job of drawing congressional districts: "When a new apportionment shall be made by congress the general assembly shall divide the state into congressional districts accordingly." Colorado Constitution, Article V Section 44.
But the legislature failed, so the courts had to step in.
More like the legislature was sabotaged - from inside. Democrat leaders of the Colorado Senate purposefully prevented the legislature from drawing congressional districts. They bet (correctly, as events proved) that a Democratic judge in Denver, appointed by a Democratic governor, would give them a more favorable map than they could get from compromise between the Democrat Senate and the Republican House. So, in violation of their oaths, they blocked any chance for lawmakers to produce a map in order to force the issue to court.
That's a harsh charge. Can you back it up?
Yes. Even before the 2002 session began, the Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to get a judge to draw the districts. The judge delayed proceedings so legislators could at least try to do their job. Then the Democrats went into a stonewall.
As expected, the House passed a Republican-friendly map, while the Senate favored Democrats. The hard work was supposed to happen in a "conference committee," formed specifically for the redistricting bill, with three representatives and three senators. They would find middle ground and compromise. It was a tough job, with regional interests, careers and egos at stake. Any serious effort would unavoidably step on toes on both sides. But it didn't happen. The Democrats simply skipped the scheduled committee meeting.
At a rescheduled conference, they arrived very late, held perfunctory debate and then adjourned to answer a parliamentary "call of the Senate" to convene for business. In other words, the Senate's Democratic leaders, who controlled the Senate's schedule, conveniently interrupted the committee to go to the Senate. Except they didn't go. For more than half an hour, a few senators milled about without convening and without the "leaders" who'd dashed from committee.
That was one stone in a continuing wall. Senate leaders did not want a messy, hard-fought, ultimately democratic compromise map. They wanted a better deal from an unelected judge, and blocked the legislature from functioning.
Sour grapes. They won. The judge ruled, and the constitutional reapportionment occurred. Why do you think it's OK to undo it?
The constitutional redistricting did not occur. The Constitution tells the legislature to do it. Now that the obstructionists who subverted the process are gone, we can fulfill our constitutional duty. The judge responded to a vacuum that no longer exists. There is no legal, moral or logical reason the legislature should simply defer to the results of a hijacking of the process.
Isn't it unfair that the map will probably continue the current 5-2 advantage in the congressional delegation? Colorado has more Republicans than Democrats, but not 2 1/2 times more.
Our system is based on geographic representation, not at-large proportional representation. In fact, the new map better preserves the integrity of county and city boundaries, an important constitutional standard. Most areas of Colorado have somewhat more Republicans than Democrats. The two places with a Democratic edge and enough population to fill a district are Denver and the Boulder region. They already have Democratic representatives. Any map that naturally groups geographic and community interests breaks in favor of Republicans elsewhere.
But if it's on the up and up, why wait until the last three days of the session and pass a map without public input?
Our map had two hearings with public comment. That's more input than attended the map drawn by the Democratic Party and selected by a judge in his chambers. We were confident of the rightness of our course, but not naive about the political reaction by the other side. We knew when we blew the whistle on the power grab of two years ago that all cooperation might die. Important things had to get done this session. We had to deal with historic drought, desperate budget shortfalls, the expiration of auto insurance laws, health insurance problems and more. Most people would prefer bipartisan cooperation on such issues. That's what they got. If we had started with the most inherently political issue, the combat of the final three days would have filled all 120.
Shawn Mitchell is a Republican state representative from Broomfield.
DENVER ó Another state-legislative redistricting fight boiled over yesterday as Colorado's attorney general took his own secretary of state to court, while the standoff surrounding absent Democratic legislators continued in Texas.
Attorney General Ken Salazar called on the Colorado Supreme Court yesterday to block the new congressional redistricting law, sparking an outcry from Republicans who accused him of overstepping his authority.
His lawsuit asks the court to stop Secretary of State Donetta Davidson from enforcing the new district lines in the 2004 elections, arguing that the boundaries, chosen last year by a judge, cannot be drawn twice in the same decade.
"It's my view that one of the responsibilities that I have as attorney general is to represent the people of the state of Colorado and to represent the integrity of the election process in our state," said Mr. Salazar yesterday at a news conference.
But Republicans called the move a breach of Mr. Salazar's oath of office, noting that state law requires the attorney general to defend the secretary of state in the event of a lawsuit.
"It's unprecedented for an attorney general to sue his own client," said Richard Westfall, who served as solicitor general under former Attorney General Gale A. Norton.
Senate Majority President John Andrews, a Republican, said Mr. Salazar had allowed his political affiliation to overtake his legal judgment. As the state's top elected Democratic official, Mr. Salazar is seen as a leading candidate to succeed Republican Gov. Bill Owens.
Colorado's legal battle over redistricting comes as Texas' legislative stalemate continued yesterday, with 51 Democrats camped out at a Holiday Inn in Oklahoma, vowing to stay out of Texas and beyond the reach of state police assigned to arrest them, and Republicans fuming in Austin and refusing to negotiate for their return.
Both sides blamed the other for the lack of a quorum in the 150-member Texas House of Representatives, preventing the legislature from taking up the Republicans' redistricting plans ó or anything else.
Several important bills appeared to be heading down the drain as tonight's midnight deadline for floor debate on House-sponsored bills drew closer, although the House could debate legislation emanating from the Senate side before the legislative session closes June 2.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Texas Senate leaders have been combing through stalled House bills, determining what they must salvage. With the lone exception of a bill to close a franchise-tax loophole, which will net Texas an extra $250 million a year, the Senate could salvage any bill needed for the state budget to pass, Mr. Dewhurst said.
The absent Democrats said they would return to Austin immediately if Republican Speaker Tom Craddick would remove the redistricting bill, which Republicans expect to add three to seven of their party to Texas's U.S. House delegation.
Gov. Rick Perry and Mr. Craddick both said such "blackmail" would not work.
Mr. Perry said the Democrats "are running out on millions of everyday Texans who are depending on their representation. There are serious issues here that require a serious debate. But instead of helping to pass these reforms, Democrats are now blocking them."
"Then we will return Friday morning," said Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, head of the House Democratic Caucus.
Yesterday afternoon, tired of hearing about his caucus not doing its duty, Mr. Dunnam criticized Washington and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
"Let me point out that last week Congressman DeLay wasn't in Washington, attending to his duties as a national leader. He spent several days in Austin and he missed at least 15 roll calls as he took those days off to work on this redistricting effort," he said from Oklahoma.
Several U.S. House members from Texas gathered on Capitol Hill yesterday to show their support for their colleagues on the lam, comparing the "51 heroes" to Sam Houston and Rosa Parks.
Rep. Martin Frost, whose district would be written off the map by Republicans, took particular issue with Mr. DeLay's efforts to have federal law enforcement bring back the wayward legislators.
"Not since Richard Nixon and Watergate 30 years ago has there been an effort to involve federal law enforcement officials in a partisan political matter," said Mr. Frost, referring to "Tom 'Nixon' DeLay."
"Shame on Tom DeLay," he said. "That is not in the American tradition."
ïHugh Aynesworth contributed to this report from Dallas and Charles Hurt contributed from Washington.
The legal battle over an unprecedented redistricting effort is underway. Minutes after Gov. Bill Owens signed into law a measure redrawing Colorado's congressional boundaries Friday, attorneys representing state Democrats marched into court and filed a legal challenge.
The last-minute Republican redistricting plan solidifies the party's control in five of seven districts statewide and was of enough interest to the White House that senior aide Karl Rove reportedly worked behind the scenes in support of it.
The impact of the redrawn map is that thousands of Colorado voters are now potentially represented by a politician they had no chance to vote for because the law took effect immediately.
Both sides predicted victory in court, although legal experts said last week anything could happen because there is so little precedent.
Minutes after the 3 p.m. signing was made public, lawyers for the Democrats filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court challenging the new law "based on numerous violations of the Colorado Constitution, Colorado statutes and U.S. Supreme Court cases."
"The Republicans ran this through in just three days, with no debate and no chance for amendments," said Chris Gates, chair of the Democratic Party of Colorado. "With this lawsuit, we will force them to defend this not only in court but in public as well."
Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, who won last year's 7th Congressional District race by 121 votes, stands to gain the most from the remapping plan if it holds up in court.
The new map gives Republicans a 27,000-vote advantage in the new district, which had been drawn by Denver District Judge John Coughlin last year to be evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
The lawyer who filed the suit said the legislature did not have the power to do what it did.
Attorney David Fine filed the suit on behalf of two voters in the 7th Congressional District, including Democratic state Sen. Moe Keller.
"Their redistricting plan violated Judge Coughlin's plan, which created the present districts," Fine said.
By jamming the legislation through in three days, the legislature violated the GAVEL Amendment, which requires every bill referred to a committee to have ample time to be reviewed and considered, the lawsuit charges. Nor was the bill posted on the Internet or in the bill room for public viewing, according to the lawsuit.
It also claims the legislature violated the Sunshine Law, which requires "full and timely" notice to the public of any meeting held to consider legislation requiring a majority vote. Committee hearings were held the same day the bill was filed, giving legislators insufficient time to review the legislation or to propose amendments and debate them, the suit says.
Lawmakers typically redraw congressional boundaries every 10 years after the release of the census to ensure that each district is equal in population. It is unusual for remapping to occur at other times.
Colorado's population grew enough over the past decade to make the state eligible for a seventh seat in Congress, according to the 2000 census.
A split legislature failed to reach agreement on how to redraw the boundaries, so it was put in the court's hands. Coughlin decided on the boundaries, carving out a 7th District north and east of Denver with roughly equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
The Colorado redistricting effort is part of a national strategy to shore up Republican seats in Congress and ensure President Bush a solid majority in a race for a second term. Republicans hold a 229-205 advantage over Democrats in the U.S. House, with one independent.
Owens signed the bill without comment five days after it was introduced in the state legislature and rushed through the Senate and House, where it passed on party- line votes in each chamber.
Last Wednesday, Owens said he would hire the nation's top lawyers at taxpayer expense to defend against a challenge by Democrats. At that time, he predicted victory.
"I think from a national perspective, it is a good thing for Republicans," Carl Forti, spokesman for the Republican National Congressional Committee in Washington, said Friday. "It helps shore up Mr. Beauprez's seat, adds Republicans to Mr. McGinnis' district and solidifies their long-term perspectives.
Republican U.S. Rep. Scott McGinnis of Grand Junction represents the 3rd District.
"Obviously, from a national perspective, we would like to have more seats in Congress," Forti said. "Hopefully, it means we can keep the Republicans from Colorado here in Congress."
But the lawsuit claims that the Coughlin plan as approved by the state Supreme Court is the legally valid and binding redistricting map and that the current legislature had no right to redraw the boundaries.
It also claims that the Republican-controlled Senate illegally suspended Senate Rule 11 requiring the reading of bills and Senate Rule 14 requiring the correction and approval of the journal of each preceding day.
In addition, the lawsuit claims that the new 7th District favors Republicans because the newest district has a Hispanic population of only 14 percent. Coughlin's plan had a Hispanic population of 20 percent. Hispanics historically vote for the Democrat Party, the lawsuit claims, and thus the Hispanics' voting strength is diluted, which violates the equal-protection provision of the state constitution.
The suit also claims that the new map strengthens Republican voter margins in several other congressional districts, for example by splitting Pueblo County.
The lawsuit asks that the new plan be declared void and unenforceable, and that the court prohibit its implementation.
Fine said any judicial ruling on the complaint, regardless of who prevails, is likely to be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. The entire process, which will be given priority, still will take up to a year to be decided.
"We feel very good about our chances," he said.
Attorney General Ken Salazar opposes the redistricting plan as unconstitutional and said he would join the legal challenge on the side of the plaintiffs, not the state.
"We hoped the governor would heed the voices of outrage across the state and veto the bill, but since he didn't, the courts will once again be involved," Salazar spokesman Ken Lane said Friday.
Hoping to expand the GOP majority in the House of Representatives, state legislators in Colorado and Texas are taking second shots at redrawing their congressional boundaries to create more Republican-leaning districts.
The process, which has infuriated Democrats, could add a half-dozen seats to the 15 that Republicans now hold in Texas, and improve the reelection prospects of a Colorado Republican who won by a thread last year.
The actions are unusual because states traditionally redraw congressional districts only once a decade, to reflect population changes recorded in the latest census, taken in 2000. But just two years after Colorado and Texas adopted new maps, their Republican-controlled legislatures are seeking to change them again. Their goal is to create additional GOP-leaning districts by packing Democratic voters into areas already represented by Democrats, which would leave more Republican voters for rearranged districts that can be switched from narrowly Democratic to narrowly (or comfortably) Republican.
Republicans hold a 229 to 205 advantage over Democrats in the House, where there is one independent. A handful of new GOP-leaning districts would enhance their chances of holding the majority at least through the 2010 census and subsequent redistricting.
Top House Republicans, such as Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), are helping to orchestrate the strategies playing out in Austin and Denver. DeLay flew to the Texas capital yesterday to urge passage of the GOP plan. Asked recently why he is devoting so much energy to a proposed map that could oust as many as seven House Democrats next year, he replied bluntly: "I'm the majority leader, and I want more [Republican] seats."
These state battles have become high drama, with late-night sessions, accusations of stolen maps and charges of racism from both parties. The Colorado legislature completed its work late Wednesday, redrawing House boundaries to shore up the reelection hopes of Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), who won by 121 votes last year. Democratic legislators, who derisively hoisted photos of Beauprez during the debate, vowed to challenge the plan in court.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), watching the debate in the Colorado capital, said: "We're not going to lie down and take it." She was hardly the only Washington-based politician following the action closely. The White House acknowledged yesterday that top political adviser Karl Rove spoke by phone with a GOP legislator during the debate.
"We know why this is happening" in Colorado and Texas, said Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "Control of the House of Representatives hangs in the balance."
Democrats in Texas, like their Colorado counterparts, are poised to file lawsuits. It's unclear, however, how judges might rule on a strategy that legislators haven't used since the 1950s. Lawmakers employed the tactic more frequently in the late 19th century, long before federal courts started weighing in on redistricting, said Michael McDonald, a government and politics professor at George Mason University. "This is new in the modern history of the United States," he said.
Before the last election, Republicans and Democrats in Colorado and Texas deadlocked over how to redraw congressional lines and had to turn to the courts for new maps. Republicans made major legislative gains in Texas and Colorado in last year's elections, and now say they're simply completing a job they couldn't finish last time.
Working with DeLay, Texas state Rep. Phil King (R) has crafted a plan that would transform the state's congressional delegation from its current 17-to-15 Democratic advantage to one where Republicans could have a 20-to-12 edge after the 2004 election.
The Texas House could approve King's plan as early as Saturday, and Gov. Rick Perry (R) is ready to sign it. But the plan faces a tough battle in the state Senate, where it needs a two-thirds majority.
Republicans said they hoped some Democratic senators would back it because the new map creates two Hispanic-majority seats without an incumbent, and a new African American majority district. While Democrats acknowledge that the reconfigured map could provide political openings for a handful of ambitious senators, they predicted Democrats would maintain party unity and block the plan.
Democrats are mulling over a retaliatory strike in New Mexico, where they recently won the governorship and could conceivably push through a redistricting plan during a special legislative session this fall. A state court imposed a plan last year that largely preserved the status quo -- two Republicans, one Democrat -- after then-Gov. Gary Johnson (R) vetoed a plan by the Democratic-controlled legislature.
This game of tit for tat worries some congressional scholars.
"It just opens up a whole can of worms," McDonald said. "Instead of voters selecting representatives, it's representatives selecting voters."
Denver ñ Lawmakerss approved congressional redistricting Wednesday night, beating their midnight deadline.
Senate Bill 352 shifts voting boundaries in the metro area, solidifying the GOP's tenuous hold on a new U.S. House seat and bolstering the party's majority in Congress.
Redistricting has been a point of contention between Democrats and Republicans for years. Republicans say it's the Legislature's role to redraw lines, but Democrats have argued the move is a last-minute effort to give Republicans a political advantage. Democrats had launched a doomed parliamentary move to delay a vote.
It drew demonstrators outside the statehouse Wednesday afternoon. Several citizen groups protested the lack of public input on the redistricting bill.
And two Senate staffers quit in protest after Republicans barred Democrats from demanding roll call votes, a move the GOP called a filibuster.
The measure was approved 18-17 on party lines. Gov. Bill Owens has promised his signature.
The new maps would shore up Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez, who eked out a 121-vote win to become the first elected to represent areas north and east of Denver in the new 7th Congressional District.
The new seat, created because of population growth recorded in the 2000 Census, was evenly split among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. The GOP plan would give the party a 27,000-vote lead in registration.
The GOP power grab in Colorado is part of a national strategy to marshal Republican forces for the 2004 presidential elections and shore up Republican seats in Congress, Democrats said Tuesday.
Colorado Republicans redrew the state's congressional district boundaries, making five of seven districts more favorable to GOP candidates. Since Monday they have rammed their new proposal through both houses of the Republican-controlled legislature, dispensing with public notice and stifling debate on the measure, which won tentative approval in the House late Tuesday.
The legislature has until midnight tonight to give final approval to the bill before sending it to the governor, who is expected to sign it. It would take effect on his signature, barring a court challenge, which is likely.
"Given the national Republican attempts to reopen redistricting in several states at once, including Colorado and Texas, it is pretty evident that this is part of a national strategy on their part," said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat who came to the Capitol to bash the GOP effort. "It's pretty sad that Rep. (Bob) Beauprez trusts Tom DeLay and Karl Rove to send him back to Congress in 2004 more than he trusts the voters of his own district to re-elect him."
DeLay, R-Texas, the U.S. House majority leader, and Rove, White House senior adviser, are two key figures involved in the national redistricting effort. They have tried to push remapping plans in Texas and Georgia, although Georgia, with a solid Democratic majority, is unlikely to change.
Colorado Republicans, who decline to be named, acknowledged that they were contacted by Rove in recent days and urged to support the redistricting plan.
Democratic political consultant Denis Berckfeldt said the redistricting effort is being orchestrated from Washington.
"There's a tremendous amount of pressure coming from the Bush White House and the Republican National Committee to try to shore up Bob Beauprez's district and at the same time making the 3rd District safer," he said.
Berckfeldt said Colorado's redistricting effort coincides with a similar strategy in Texas, where congressional districts were drawn two years ago by a three-judge federal panel after the Texas Legislature failed to agree on a plan in 2001. Colorado's congressional map was ordered by a state district judge and upheld by the state Supreme Court after a split legislature - with Democrats in control in the Senate and Republicans in the House - failed to agree on a plan last year.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years after the release of federal census data. In Colorado and Texas, it is the legislature's duty to set the boundaries. If it fails to do so, the courts make the decision.
The Texas strategy is similar to that in Colorado, namely to increase the number of Republicans in Congress and ensure President Bush a strong majority, Berckfeldt said.
Beauprez in November beat his Democratic rival by 121 votes in a district evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. The new map would give him a 27,000-vote advantage and help him avoid another costly race in 2004.
Beauprez's office said the congressman is not responsible for the new redistricting effort, as some Democrats have alleged.
"The congressman is happy with the district he has now," spokesman Sean Murphy said. "He likes the communities and he has already won in this district. He doesn't want new lines drawn, but the legislature has the constitutional authority to draw the lines."
The new map would strengthen the Republican hold on the 3rd District seat, now held by Rep. Scott McInnis. Analysts say the popular incumbent can retain the seat as long as he wants it. But Republicans are urging McInnis to run for governor in 2006 against the Democrat that most people believe could win the seat, Attorney General Ken Salazar.
In a legal opinion Monday, Salazar called the redistricting effort is unconstitutional and said he would challenge it.
An open seat in the 3rd District could be prime political turf for the right Democrat.
"This is a crass and naked admission by the national and Colorado GOP, directed straight from Washington, that it does not trust the voters of Colorado," DeGette said.
But the bill's chief sponsor, state Sen. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, said the legislature is simply doing its duty.
"It's the legislature's prerogative to set the boundaries," Lamborn said. "I know people in Washington are looking at this. They're watching closely."
Democrats, still angered by the GOP action, called the legislation Tuesday the "tyranny of the majority" and an unconstitutional effort to further pad Republican dominance in the state.
"The Republican National Committee has made this part of their agenda to shore up the seats Republicans won that were competitive," said Senate Minority Leader Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden. She was among 17 Democrats who walked out of the Senate late Monday, refusing to vote on the bill.
Fitz-Gerald, a former Jefferson County clerk, said a redrawing of districts could cost each county involved in the process tens of thousands of dollars to hire people, redo computer records, notify voters and make a host of changes.
It was unclear Tuesday whether a new statewide election, which could cost $4 million to $5 million, would have to be held within 90 days of the bill's becoming law to allow voters who would have new congressional representatives to recast their votes. State elections director Bill Compton said that as far as he knew, there would not be a special election.
It's been a week of temper tantrums as lawmakers grapple with a last-minute redistricting plan that Republicans are pushing to get passed by the time the session ends at midnight tonight.
After several screaming matches, Democratic senators walked off the floor in the middle of a vote Monday night. Two of them threw their rule-books into the trash on the way out to symbolize what they said was a complete breakdown of the process.
Alfredo Kim, the clerk responsible for reading bills aloud in the Senate, quit in protest after Monday night's meeting.
On Tuesday, Rep. Frank Weddig, D-Aurora, one of the most soft-spoken members of the House, shouted and pounded the table during a State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee meeting after committee chairman Rep. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, refused to let him speak.
In that same meeting, Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver, sat in the back of the room and heckled the Republican majority, shouting, "This is outrageous!"
Cadman pounded the gavel and threatened to have her thrown out of the room.
The tension was so thick during the committee meeting that the clerk wept as she took the roll call of members' votes. Three Democrats on the committee refused to vote in protest.
Democrats say Republicans have been abusing the process to an unprecedented degree to limit debate and shove their bill through, ratcheting up tensions to levels higher than anyone at the Capitol can remember.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Weddig, who is serving his ninth year in the legislature. "This is a complete breakdown of the process, bordering on the disgraceful."
Minority Leader Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, agreed in an angry speech on the House floor.
"This is an absurd process," she said. "We have not had public debate. This is just ludicrous."
But Republicans say they are simply trying to get their business done and that the minority party - the Democrats - is hurting the legislative process with emotional histrionics. Democrats have been trying desperately to slow the process down to keep the bill from passing in the short time left in the session.
To get that done, they've thrown up procedural roadblocks, asking for votes on even the least controversial procedures.
Senate Majority Leader Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, said she's seen challenges to leadership before, but not like this.
"They're doing it now like it's an everyday occurrence," she said. On the redistricting issue, she said, "the courts will probably decide who is right and who is wrong. But the process was not wrong. It was permitted."
A bill designed to save trauma centers from the possible ravages of tort insurance was killed by its sponsor Monday night to try to aid a Republican-backed redistricting measure. But Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for the death of Senate Bill 353.
Democrats said it was inexcusable to kill a bill that might be a life or death matter.
"This is shameful because this bill is critical," said Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver. "Throwing it under a bus so we can ramrod an unconstitutional redistricting bill ... is shameful."
But bill's sponsor Sen. John Evans, R-Parker, blamed Democrats. "They're playing games to kill (redistricting)," he said after the vote. "Not one of their amendments are substantive. They're just wasting time."
Earlier in the day, Evans introduced SB 353, which would have required people to purchase $50,000 of insurance for emergency care because trauma centers fear a tort auto-insurance system would leave them with no one to pay medical bills.
Evans' bill passed the Senate Health, Environment, Welfare and Institutions Committee Monday afternoon by a 4-2 vote.
Senate Bill 78, which would reauthorize no-fault insurance, was voted out of conference committee Monday. Its sponsor, Rep. Tambor Williams, R-Greeley, said she expected it to die early Monday, but she said the death of Evans' bill might help no-fault.
Williams said legislators who are afraid of tort's consequences on trauma centers might vote for no-fault. The House is expected to take up the no-fault bill today.
No-fault, which will expire July 1 unless a new bill passes, has each driver's insurance company pay the bills of its client.
If there's one thing major-party politicians hate, it's a close contest. Once they get into office, by gum, they want to stay there, and they don't want to break a sweat while doing it. They're like sports fans who hate last-minute field goals and extra innings. They always want to win big.
And on the national level, they do. In the 2002 elections, just 16 incumbents lost out of 435 races in the U.S. House of Representatives (there also were 36 open seats). It was no better in the Senate, where 34 seats were up for grabs and four incumbents went down. Seventy-six incumbents in the House and four in the Senate faced no major-party opposition, and even where there were "races," most were not close. No sweat.
But at least one race set hearts racing. In Colorado's newly created 7th Congressional District, former Lafayette banker Bob Beauprez defeated former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Feeley by just 121 votes. A judge had drawn the 7th CD boundaries for the 2002 elections after partisan squabbles torpedoed legislative negotiations.
But Monday, with less than three full days left in the 2003 legislative session, Republicans rode in to save poor Beauprez from having to face the awful fate of a competitive election again. They introduced Senate Bill 352, which would redraw the state's congressional districts to shore up Beauprez's GOP base and give a little more advantage to U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, a Western Slope Republican who doesn't need the help.
Sen. President John Andrews explained his party's noble purpose: "The (state) constitution dictates that the Legislature redistrict," he said. True. So why had the GOP been sitting on the bill since January? Why wait until the game is almost over?
Oh, you know, who needs the hassle of actual public notice and hearings and all that messy stuff? It's much easier to try to ram the thing through at the bottom of the ninth inning, when so many other issues are competing for last-minute attention and when Democrats could be blamed for "stalling" if they tried to halt the crass power grab.
Furious Senate Democrats did just that Monday, in every legal way they could, devising a kind of ad hoc filibuster. If they succeeded in delaying a second reading of the bill by midnight Monday long past our deadline then defense held the day.
Yes, the Democrats' strategy meant the loss of precious time with other important bills pending. But blame goes to the Republicans: Minority Democrats were simply doing what they had to do to not to protect political "advantage," but to put the skids on a grossly political scheme that deliberately tried to shut out public input. (Indeed, for 15 minutes Monday, the Senate carried on behind closed doors with no oversight from the press or public). If the roles were switched, we'd spank Dems, too.
It's a wonder, frankly, that Republicans are so fussy about all this. They currently own four "safe" districts, compared to two for the Democrats. With Beauprez's narrow victory, Republicans hold a 5-2 advantage in Colorado's House delegation. As of February, according to the Secretary of State's office, Republicans held a registration advantage over Democrats by a sizable margin, 1,045,386 to 861,460 (with 920,247 unaffiliated).
Do the math: In registration, the ratio of GOP to Democratic voters is about 1.2:1 and they hold a 5:2 representation advantage. Using some grade-school math to get comparable ratios, that's a 12:10 tilt in registration, and 25:10 in representation. Poor Republicans! It's just not fair!
As for newbie Beauprez, if he runs again, it will be as an incumbent. And we all know what a terrible, unfair disadvantage that is.
Majority Republicans won a bitter fight in the Colorado Senate for a new congressional redistricting map late Monday, overcoming a blunt warning from Attorney General Ken Salazar and seemingly endless stalling tactics by angry Democrats who eventually stormed out of the chambers.
Shortly before 11:30 p.m. - after minority Democrats had thrown up delaying tactics all evening - the GOP gave initial approval to the bill on an 18-0 party-line vote with 17 excused. Democrats walked out of the chambers at the request of their minority leader, Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Jefferson County.
"I asked my members to leave the chambers and not be a party to this travesty," Fitz-Gerald said just before the vote was taken after one of the most bizarre and frequently nasty floor battles in recent memory.
Legislative action on the measure is virtually certain to wind up in the courts, and Salazar said he won't be helping to defend it.
"Redistricting of Colorado's congressional districts has already taken place for this decade," Salazar said. "It's my opinion that SB 352 is constitutionally infirm."
But GOP lawmakers - whose map solidifies the hold that Republicans now have on five of the state's seven congressional seats - said they were only carrying out the job that Democrats prevented them from doing last year.
A Denver court drew up the congressional map after the Democratcontrolled Senate couldn't reach agreement with the GOP-dominated House and Republican Gov. Bill Owens. This year, the GOP controls both houses and the governorship.
"The public and the legislature are getting a lot more give and take on this bill than when an unelected judge made the decision by himself," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs. "The Constitution tells us we have to do this. That is why we're here today."
But Salazar, the state's leading Democratic officeholder, predicted a costly legal challenge. He said he not only would refuse to defend the legislature but would support those who challenge it.
"Should this unprecedented action actually become law, it may very well trigger similar activity in other states based upon elections every two years," Salazar said.
He said that "may have profound negative effects on our historic system of government."
The bill was rushed through the Senate State Affairs Committee after its introduction then sent to the Senate floor.
It faces a final vote in the Senate today. Then it goes to the House, which will give initial consideration today and a final vote Wednesday before the session ends.
The new map particularly increases the safety margin for Republican Rep. Bob Beauprez in the new suburban 7th District, which he narrowly won last year.
Minority Democrats, furious over GOP plans to rush passage of the bill, threw up every roadblock they could devise, including asking for a closed session on the Senate floor.
Shortly before 8 p.m., the Republicans were ready when the Democrats pulled another delaying tactic, demanding the 28-page bill be read at length. The GOP was waiting with 15 people, each reading different pages simultaneously.
The battle began the moment that work began in the Senate, with Republicans introducing a motion to waive regular rules of business, including the right of lawmakers to demand every bill be read at length.
"Everything in the rule book is being suspended to keep the minority party in silence," Fitz-Gerald said. "The only rule in the Senate is there are no rules. This is a kangaroo proceeding, and one for which I think this body ought to be ashamed."
"It's behavior like this that keeps us below lawyers when we ask people who is most trustworthy," said Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada.
Republicans couldn't bar the right of lawmakers to have bills read at length - that's in the Colorado Constitution. But Democrats lost the fight over their rights to have the Senate journal read and not to waive other rules in the final three days of the session.
That battle was followed by challenges of the Senate president's rulings, motions for recess, roll-call votes, frequent explanations of votes and requests for clarification of votes.
Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial, said he had been warned ahead of time by Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Ken Gordon that his party would "make it difficult to get any business done."
"I was warned that this was going to be a day of stall," Andrews said.