Denver Post: "Redistrict
Debates Continue; Republicans sue, ask judges to take over." September 27,
Republicans have joined Democrats in court over the battle to remap the state into seven congressional districts, as mandated by the 2000 census.
On Wednesday, three Republican taxpayers filed suit in U.S. District Court asking for a three-judge panel to redistrict the state. The judges' plan would stand until the legislature adopts a seven-district plan, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a similar suit filed by Democrats in state court in Denver on May 31. Rather than asking the judges to draw up a new plan, the Democrats' suit asks for a restraining order preventing the secretary of state from holding the 2002 primary and general elections until the redistricting plan is adopted.
The latest suit was filed by Bob Martinez of Castle Rock, Glenn Baham of Centennial and Gertrude Chapin of Weldona in Morgan County. Martinez is the Republican national committeeman from Colorado. Their attorney, Chris Paulson, said the three believe the legislature will never get the job done.
"Nobody in the legislature is really interested in doing this job, although the (state) constitution requires the legislature to do it. My clients expect that the courts will have to do it," Paulson said.
Paulson believes that it will take a federal court to redistrict the state, not a state court. Legislative leaders could not be reached for comment.
In arguing that the lawsuit is necessary, the three plaintiffs quoted state Sen. Terry Phillips, D-Louisville, co-chairman of the legislature's congressional redistricting subcommittee, as saying on Sept. 15: "You've got 100 potential congresspeople who all might have their own idea of a plan. The odds are, this is going to be decided in the courts."
Majority Republicans in the Colorado House gave initial approval Tuesday to a half-dozen maps carving the state into seven congressional districts before shutting down work for the week.
Democrats said they found all of the maps unacceptable but one -- and GOP leaders immediately called a caucus at which they decided to sideline that measure when it comes up for final reading next week.
House Speaker Doug Dean, R-Colorado Springs, said he wanted to send only two or three of the "most Republican" maps to the Democratic-controlled Senate to give Republicans a stronger hand when negotiations begin on a compromise.
The effort to redraw Colorado's current six congressional districts and to add a seventh is considered the toughest issue facing lawmakers in their current special session.
Many believe the fight eventually will wind up in the courts.
But before that happens, the House and the Senate will each pass its own version, and a conference committee will try to hammer out a compromise.
Senate Democrats worked in committee on their own congressional redistricting maps, but they won't reach the floor until next week.
During House floor debate, Democratic leader Dan Grossman, D-Denver, complained about all of the bills except HB 1014 by Rep. Richard Decker, R-Fountain.
It kept current districts pretty much intact, but put heavily Democratic Pueblo into a new 7th District with southeast Colorado.
"It is by far in my view the most thoughtful look we've seen from Republican bills so far," Grossman said.
But that was too much for several House Republicans who wanted a more Republican map than either Decker's or another by Rep. Lynn Hefley, R-Colorado Springs, whose husband is Joel Hefley, a congressman from the 5th district.
During a caucus, Hefley agreed to hold back her bill on final reading, but Decker argued Republicans should try to promote a reasonable plan now.
"Let's do what we think is right," Decker said. "I'm trying to keep this whole redistricting thing out of court."
Dean said that the Decker and Hefley plans might be "dynamite maps" to be considered in a conference committee, but they were premature at this time.
A congressional redistricting plan offered by Rep. Richard Decker of Fountain got widespread bipartisan support Tuesday, but Decker's fellow Republicans decided to delay giving it final approval.
The reason? It's too early to take the middle ground.
"We should start from the right extreme on our side because we know every bill that comes over from the Senate is going to be from the left extreme," House Speaker Doug Dean, R-Colorado Springs, explained to the GOP caucus.
The Republicans who control the House are jockeying with the Democrats who control the Senate for bargaining position over congressional redistricting.
"You should lead with your strongest punch," said Rep. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield. "This is like wearing a T-shirt and shorts to a strip-poker game."
While the House gave preliminary approval Tuesday to six competing redistricting plans, the Senate's Public Policy and Planning Committee took testimony on five others, but delayed voting on them until next week.
Rep. Joe Stengel, R-Littleton, warned the House GOP caucus that Democrats will oppose any plan that doesn't give them a shot at winning four seats: Three Republican districts, three Democratic districts and one swing district.
Republicans argue they should have a 5-2 majority in the state's congressional delegation, or at worst a 4-3 edge, because Republican voters make up a majority in 47 of the state's 64 counties.
Tuesday, the 38 House Republicans managed to hold together 34 votes to revive a bill that gives them an apparent 6-1 edge. The measure, HB 1003 by Rep. Don Lee, R-Littleton, had failed on an initial voice vote but was brought back with a parliamentary move.
Decker's HB 1014 was supported in preliminary debate by members of both parties. Democratic support wasn't enthusiastic.
"I fear that by supporting it, we say that's where we want to end up," said Minority Leader Dan Grossman, D-Denver. "With a 4-2-1 plan (four Republicans, two Democrats and one swing district)."
When state lawmakers convene for a special session of the Colorado General Assembly at 10 a.m. Thursday, they'll have to decide where to put a seventh congressional district, and how to change the existing six districts in order to accommodate the newcomer.
The logical thing would be to leave most of the districts as they are and carve the 7th Congressional District out of the fast-growing suburbs south of Denver.
But politics often trump logic in this most political of issues.
As of Monday, the deadline for redistricting bills, 19 plans had been submitted, the majority of them by House Republicans.
Republicans are accusing Democrats of dragging their feet on redistricting. They claim the Democrats, the majority party in the Senate, want to let the courts decide what should be done.
Republicans think a logical division of the state would create five districts where Republicans have a plurality of voters, and two districts with Democrats holding the stronger hand.
Democrats think it's possible to have a 4-3 split, with their party having a shot at three districts, or maybe a 4-2-1 split, with one "swing" district capable of going either way.
Both parties are divided over whether to split Denver between two districts. Proponents of that idea, including some Democrats, think it would be smart to have a congressional district where a minority representative - Hispanic, most likely - would have a better chance of being elected.
DeGette The 1st District incumbent, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., opposes that idea, and Mayor Wellington Webb "has not seen a convincing argument that it would be to Denver's benefit to split it in half for redistricting," said spokesman Andrew Hudson.
Pueblo wants to be the population center of one redrawn district, and not lumped in with the Western Slope, Colorado Springs or even - as one map suggests - the south Denver suburbs.
Action 22, a southern Colorado promotional group, was unable to agree on a congressional plan. "We'd like to keep the San Luis Valley together. We do not want El Paso and Pueblo together in one district, and we want no county in the Action 22 area to be split," said Cathy Garcia, president of the 22-county organization.
But with 883,000 people in those 22 counties, and 614,466 the ideal population target for each of the seven districts, "It just makes it difficult," Garcia said.
Every time a line is moved to pick up more population or lose a few voters, another line has to be moved elsewhere.
Another difficulty is that some state legislators see themselves as future members of Congress. They want to craft districts that will work to their advantage should they decide to seek a Washington office, especially when their eight-year term limits expire.
Musgrave Sen. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Fort Morgan, has been mentioned as a possible 4th District candidate if incumbent Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer decides to keep a personal term-limits pledge and not run again. Schaffer has said he'll make his plans known in November.
Sen. John Evans of Parker and Rep. Joe Stengel of Littleton, along with state Treasurer Mike Coffman, all Republicans, have expressed varying degrees of interest - Coffman the most - in running for the new 7th District, although no one knows what the boundaries will look like.
A congressional redistricting subcommittee of eight legislators, four Republicans and four Democrats, spent weeks taking testimony around the state, including from current members of Congress.
Stengel, the co-chair of that subcommittee, said there was a basic partisan disagreement.
"The Democrats from day one said they didn't want any maps and . . . they didn't have any maps," Stengel said. "I think the Democrats have demonstrated clearly, clearly, that they want to go to court. They've pooh-poohed all of our plans but haven't show us their own."
State Democrats went to Denver District Court in late May, arguing that the governor had signaled he didn't think the legislature could reach agreement on redistricting, and asking the court to intervene.
That action is still pending, but Democratic Chairman Tim Knaus says the state party nonetheless has drawn two maps to put before the special session.
"One maps splits Denver, the other doesn't," Knaus said. "It's been interesting. We're not at 100 percent consensus in our own party."
Neither are the Republicans. Stengel wants to divide Denver's 1st District. But state GOP Chairman Bob Beauprez disagrees.
"This is one of the few times I will probably side with (Democratic) Reps. DeGette and (Mark) Udall. . . . To me it's a fairly straightforward process unless you want to start playing games. My inclination is to change as little as possible."
Tonight's opening public hearing by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission could be heated.
When the commission convenes at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Alamosa, Republicans will argue to keep the San Luis Valley together, and Democrats will push for a House district with better prospects for electing a Latino.
If the meeting does become contentious, it may be the exception in the commission's next round of 22 meetings at which the public will have a chance to weigh in.
Public interest in the commission's Denver meetings, between May 11 and last week, has been spotty. Those in attendance have mostly been people involved with the major political parties.
The other hearing with a high friction potential is Oct. 1 in Boulder. Residents are not happy with the way their city has been split by the commission's preliminary map.
The commission has its critics, including Gov. Bill Owens. On Tuesday, he said Colorado Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey "lost an opportunity" to make the commission more balanced when she used her four appointments - the final stage of the commission-naming process - to pick "four partisan Democrats."
Democrats, in turn, question Owens' use of office space and a full-time staffer for drawing proposed districts that favor Republicans.
The 11-member commission, with six Democrats and five Republicans, is responsible for redrawing the boundary lines of the Colorado legislature's 65 House districts and 35 Senate districts.
The task is necessary every 10 years, after each U.S. census, to reflect population shifts. Districts have to be nearly equal in population. Each district also should be compact, preserve county and city boundaries as much as possible, and protect "communities of interest."
Racial and ethnic factors also are a consideration, as they will be in Alamosa.
Five years ago, a federal court ordered new boundaries for the San Luis Valley's House District 60, agreeing with a lawsuit that claimed a history of white "bloc voting" had kept Hispanics from being elected.
The legislature complied, and in 1998, Alamosa Democrat Al Gagliardi, son of an Italian father and Hispanic mother, was elected to succeed term-limited Republican Lewis Entz of Hooper.
Gagliardi served one term, losing narrowly in 2000 to Jim Snook, a Republican from Alamosa.
The plan the commission approved for the San Luis Valley, including a swath of southern Colorado in Pueblo County, passed on a 10-1 vote.
But Democrats in the state party organization are recruiting witnesses to testify for an alternative that has a higher concentration of Hispanics - and Democrats - in House District 60 than the commission approved.
"We think the federal court decision has to be followed," said Mike Melanson, executive director of the Colorado Democratic Party.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Thiebaut, D-Pueblo, was the only one of the commission's six Democrats who voted against the preliminary map. &Republicans also plan to turn out witnesses to endorse the plan.
While the commission's hearings will be held at a variety of locations, discussion isn't limited to local districts, said Becky Lennahan, head of the commission's staff.
"Anybody who wants to show up and talk about something can. It's not limited to just the districts in that area," Lennahan said.
The commission will not be taking votes again until Oct. 23. Its last public hearing will be Oct. 10 in Broomfield.
It has until Dec. 7 to submit maps to the Colorado Supreme Court. The court must rule by Feb. 13, 2002.
State Democrats on Tuesday accused Gov. Bill Owens of misusing government resources by assigning a full-time staffer to help redraw state legislative districts to benefit the Republican Party. A spokesman for Owens denied the accusation and said Owens' special assistant, Alan Philp, has worked with the Republicans on the Reapportionment Commission and on boundary compromises with Scott Martinez, who works for the state Democratic Party.
"It's entirely appropriate for the governor's office to assist the governor's appointees to the Reapportionment Commission with doing their jobs," Dick Wadhams said.
Earlier Tuesday, the Republican governor contended Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey should have included one unaffiliated member instead of appointing four Democrats. Mullarkey is a registered Democrat.
A spokeswoman said the chief justice would not respond to the governor's remarks.
Wadhams said Owens made the remarks because he believes voters expect politicians to be partisan but judges to be impartial when making appointments to the commission.
The accusations came as the commission prepares to begin a trip around the state to explain a preliminary plan for redrawing 65 state House and Senate districts based on 2000 census figures. The map must be approved by the state Supreme Court.
The panel has been working the better part of the summer, conducting hearings around the state to gather comment from the public and politicians. It also has three Republican members appointed by Owens and a member of each party appointed from both houses of the Legislature.
The deadline for drafting a plan is Dec. 7, with the court to issue its decision by February. The court can accept the committee recommendation or draw its own map.
Martinez said he has met several times with Philp and used computers in the governor's office to redraw state legislative maps. He said Philp was the primary contact for the Republican Party.
Don't divide Denver in drawing new congressional district boundary lines, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette urged state lawmakers Monday.
The Democrat from Denver hauled out a 21-year-old federal court ruling to explain why a legislative congressional redistricting subcommittee should keep Denver intact.
She testified at the latest in a series of hearings that the six-member legislative panel is holding throughout the state in preparation for a special session that gets underway on Sept. 20.
Legislators will be redrawing lines for the six existing congressional districts in Colorado and adding a seventh based on new census figures.
DeGette and Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., whose Second District is made up of Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin and parts of Adams and Jefferson counties, both testified.
DeGette quoted from U.S. District Judge Sherman Finesilver, who headed a three-member court panel in 1981 when lawmakers and then-Gov. Dick Lamm couldn't reach agreement.
Finesilver argued it was vital to keep Denver intact, citing communities of interest and its minority population among other factors.
But one subcommittee member, Rep. Joe Stengel, R-Littleton, questioned whether Denver might not be better off with a split that could lead to two voices in Congress.
Udall urged that Pueblo, the San Luis Valley and southeast Colorado be put in one congressional district. He also encouraged the subcommittee to keep his current district largely intact, even though part of it must be whittled down because it is too large.
Udall drew laughter and applause with his response to Stengel's suggestion that Boulder might be placed in the same district with Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. That would create a strong higher education community of interest, Stengel argued.
But Udall pointed out that the University of Colorado and Colorado State University will be clashing on the football field this Saturday and it would be difficult for a member of Congress to decide what jersey to wear.
Senate Dems: Don't drop redistrict suit
By Fred Brown
August 21, 2001
Tuesday, - Senate Democrats said Monday they won't ask the state party to withdraw its lawsuit over congressional redistricting, nor will they join the state's motion to dismiss the case.
Instead, they want to leave the case on the back burner so it can move more quickly through the courts in the event the legislature can't agree on congressional district boundaries during a special session set to begin Sept. 20.
"If everything were to fall apart, we could hit the ground running," said Senate President Pro Tem Ed Perlmutter, D-Jefferson County.
Senate president Stan Matsunaka, D-Loveland, asked Perlmutter to draft a reply to the governor's chief counsel, Troy Eid. In a letter to Matsunaka, Eid urged the Senate leader to "renew your public call on the plaintiffs not to continue their lawsuit," and to ask the Denver District Court for permission to intervene on behalf of the state's motion to dismiss.
Matsunaka - who, like Perlmutter, is a lawyer - wrote Owens two months ago, saying he'd ask the Colorado Democratic Party to "take no further action" in the party's effort to have the Denver court take over the redistricting effort.
Matsunaka said he did ask the party to back off. But that doesn't mean the case should be dismissed. "The bottom line is, I've done what I said I would do," Matsunaka said.
The state gained about a million residents between the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census counts. That means its six-member representation in the House will increase to seven. The state constitution gives the legislature responsibility for drawing district boundaries, and the process is highly politicized.
Eid said the case is creating "needless cost to Colorado taxpayers." "You can put a stop to a lawsuit that three constitutional officers, the governor, the attorney general and the secretary of state agree is totally without legal merit," Eid wrote Matsunaka.
Senate President Pro Tem Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, made his comments after Gov. Bill Owens' chief counsel asked the group to convince the six Democrats who filed the lawsuit to withdraw it.
"I want to keep it in suspense. This way, if we don't reach agreement, we don't have to start over again," Perlmutter said.
Troy Eid, Owens' chief counsel, contended last week that the lawsuit is moot since lawmakers plan to meet Sept. 20 to begin drawing boundaries for the seven districts.
"You can put a stop to a lawsuit that three constitutional officers, the governor, the attorney general and the secretary of state, agree is totally without legal merit," Eid said.
He also called the lawsuit a waste of taxpayer money. Perlmutter said there would be no cost to taxpayers unless the lawsuit goes forward.
The Constitution gives lawmakers the job of redrawing congressional-district boundaries after each census. An appointed commission is working on redrawing the boundaries of the state's 100 legislative seats.
Democrats in each of the six existing districts filed the suit May 31 asking a judge to begin redrawing district boundaries. They were concerned Owens would not call a special session and that lawmakers next year could not do the job in time for county clerks to set precinct boundaries.
Following the Legislature's failure to approve growth-management legislation in a May special session, Owens said he was not certain lawmakers could succeed in redistricting.
The state will gain a seventh congressional district based on the latest census, which showed 30 percent growth since 1990 to 4.3 million people.
The budget skirmish behind it, the Legislature returned Monday from its summer recess braced for a monthlong battle with even greater consequences: redistricting.
Unlike the state budget, which required a two-thirds vote and allowed Republicans to salvage some deals, only a simple majority is needed to draw Assembly, Senate and congressional voting lines for the next decade.
Democrats hold commanding majorities in each house of the Legislature. Assuming Democratic Gov. Gray Davis signs their plans, only the Voting Rights Act is preventing Democrats from turning the GOP elephant into a dinosaur in California.
"Republicans need to recognize that Democrats can pass a redistricting plan without any Republican votes and, frankly, Republican input," said Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga.
But Brulte said he hopes an X-factor will keep Democrats from being "excessively partisan": a two-thirds vote would pre-empt the GOP from challenging the redistricting plans with a ballot referendum.
Moreover, under a two-thirds urgency vote, the new lines would take effect immediately, rather than in January, reducing candidates' uncertainty about where they will file.
"My expectation is we will get a bipartisan redistricting out of the Senate and hopefully the Assembly as well," Brulte said.
The plans must be voted on by Sept. 14 and signed by Davis by Sept. 26, two days before the first filing day for next year's primaries.
More than any legislative act, redistricting determines how candidates fare in elections. By law, the Legislature must use 2000 census data to draw new legislative and congressional districts, factoring in the 4.1 million residents the state gained during the 1990s.
Reconfiguring new districts presents political and legal challenges. Brulte and others say they believe Democrats risk losing some seats if they attempt to "overly maximize" their numbers by shifting too many of their voters into districts now held by the GOP.
While protecting incumbency has long been the Holy Grail of redistricting, term limits will be a factor for the first time. And many legislators are said to be more interested in the configuration of the district they see as their next stepping stone.
Race - as always - figures to complicate matters. Groups representing Latinos and Asian Americans, the state's fastest-growing ethnic groups, have already introduced maps that would increase their political clout.
"A compromise makes sense if Democrats can round up the two-thirds vote to head off a referendum," said Alan Clayton, who represents the California Latino Redistricting Coalition. "But we would never accept a plan that reduces the ability of Latinos to elect candidates of their choice."
Statewide, the Latino population soared by 43 percent in the 1990s. Latinos now make up 31 percent of California's population.
Drawing congressional districts, nearly everyone agrees, promises to be even more fractious and could pit the goals of national Democratic Party officials against state operatives.
Thirty-two of the 52 members in California congressional delegation are Democrats, but Republicans hold a six-seat advantage in the House.
California will be among the last states to redistrict. By the time the Legislature nears a decision, the GOP is expected to have strengthened its position in such states as Pennsylvania and Texas - putting pressure on California Democrats to help offset those losses.
"The question for Democrats is, do they try to squeeze out one, two or three more seats in California?" Clayton said. "That should be fascinating."
Tension between liberal and moderate Democrats is already spilling out in public.
Earlier this month, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a moderate Democrat from Antioch, charged that state allies of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal, were threatening to weaken her district in retribution for her decision to back Pelosi's opponent in the race for party whip.
State Senate Majority Leader John Burton, D-San Francisco, whom Tauscher singled out, has denied the allegation.
Because of the electricity crisis and budget impasse, legislators are just now focusing their attention on redistricting.
Assembly and Senate redistricting committee hearings around the state drew sparse crowds, and proposed maps were introduced by only two groups: the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans for Fair Redistricting.
But the real work will be done behind closed doors. Before the summer break, Democratic consultants dropped by Senate offices to display some maps. Responses were mixed, insiders said.
The plans that emerge from the Legislature must receive the governor's approval and pass legal reviews. During the past three redistricting sessions, all plans have run into hurdles.
In the 1970s, the courts drew the plans. In the 1980s, the plans were approved by a referendum. And in the 1990s, the plans we
Contact Aurelio Rojas of the Sacramento Bee in California at http://www.sacbee.com.
Ever since Colorado earned a 7th Congressional District earlier this year, Action 22, a Pueblo-based group composed of local governments, businesses, civic groups and individuals, has been poring over maps and census figures to determine the best way to redraw congressional lines.
It has devised two options, which could be voted on today when the group meets at the Alamosa Holiday Inn.
"The goal is to get three congressional representatives for Action 22's area while we don't divide any of our counties," said Cathy Garcia, Action 22's executive director. The group is modeled after Club 20, an organization that lobbies lawmakers for Colorado's Western Slope.
One option matches the San Luis Valley with the Western Slope in Rep. Scott McInnis' 3rd District and keeps geographical water interests intact. A second option puts the valley with southern Front Range counties in a new 5th Congressional District.
"With over 883,000 people in our 22 counties, we will have to have at least two congressional districts," said Clarke Becker, Action 22's board chairman.
"We must seek the best balance of statewide and congressional representation for our members. If we are to continue to be recognized and represented in Denver and Washington, Action 22 must have a productive, respected and yet powerful presence with our state's top elected and appointed leaders."
Former Del Norte Mayor Dennis Murphy represents Rio Grande County on the Action 22 board and says both options could benefit the San Luis Valley.
"The majority of people I've talked to prefer staying in the 3rd District because we have common water issues with the Western Slope and we're pleased with the work McInnis has done for us," Murphy said. "But we have to look ahead to when Scott is no longer in office. The other option keeps the valley's common bond with other Action 22 counties."
If the legislature does draw up a new southern Colorado district when it convenes next month, Murphy said he's heard suggestions that former state Sen. Gigi Dennis, named by President Bush last winter to head the USDA's rural development office in Colorado, could run for the post.
"I'm flattered by the suggestion, and you never say never in this business," Dennis said Thursday from her Lakewood office. "Right now there is no seat to run for, but we'll see how the future plays out."
Federal law requires precise mathematical equality in population among congressional districts. Each district should have 614,466 residents. The law also requires that districts show compactness and contiguity, preservation of municipal and county boundaries, preservation of communities of interest and absence of racial discrimination.
The Colorado Reapportionment Commission stumbled for a second consecutive hearing Wednesday in trying to approve new state Senate district boundaries for Adams, Boulder and Jefferson counties.
"I would suggest we go back to the drawing board again," said Sen. Bill Thiebaut, D-Pueblo, a commission member who ended up voting against his own plan after it was amended.
A subcommittee that came up with the rejected plan will now go back to work to present still another proposal at the commission's next hearing.
The sticking point this time appeared to be what to do with Broomfield, which will become Colorado's second city-county on Nov. 15. The original Thiebaut plan divided it into two Senate districts.
Broomfield Mayor Bill Berens was at the hearing to voice his objection, as was Council member Steve Olstad. Neither actually testified, but they scored an initial victory when the commission on a 6-5 vote accepted an amendment by Rep. Mark Paschall, R-Arvada, to put Broomfield into a single Senate district.
The vote cheered the Broomfield representatives, but it was only temporary, because the commission then voted 6-5 against approving the overall plan.
Berens said he found it ironic that the commission earlier kept Broomfield intact when it approved a preliminary House districting plan, but wanted to split the community for a Senate district.
The commission also worked on plans for Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, El Paso and Teller Counties and heard initial proposals for Pueblo and the San Luis Valley.
Former Senate Majority Leader Jeff Wells, R-Colorado Springs, a commission member, also publicly voiced his concern over hundreds of letters he has been getting, many from Pueblo and the San Luis Valley, complaining about his plans to split the valley.
Wells noted he has not even proposed a plan for the area and said he has been a target of a "clearly organized effort of disinformation."
"There's a lot of disinformation out there," said House Minority Leader Dan Grossman, D-Denver, who noted he got similar mail from the Longmont area.
Because of new census figures, the commission is trying to create 35 Senate districts as close as possible in population to 122,893, an increase over 94,128 only a decade ago, and 65 House districts with populations average 66,173, compared with 50,684 ten years go.
Now it's the Republicans who are saying ethnic minorities should have a better chance to win legislative districts.
Democrats respond that Republicans are trying to "pack" liberal-leaning voters into distinct districts, giving the GOP a better chance of winning elsewhere.
On Monday, the 11-member commission compromised on a preliminary map for Jefferson County's House District 24, rejecting a GOP plan to increase the proportion of Latino voters from 17 percent to 24 percent in a trade-off for a House district map that minimized splitting the city of Longmont.
The vote came after the commission heard conflicting arguments from Hispanic groups.
"Assist our community," said Sharon Vigil, president of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. A larger proportion of Hispanic voters would encourage Hispanics to run for office and participate in the political process more than they do now, Vigil said.
But Pauline Moreno York of Edgewater called the attempt to create a Latino district bordering Denver "racial profiling at its worst." Referring to Rep. Mark Paschall, R-Arvada, who proposed the 24 percent Hispanic district, York said, "I don't need Mr. Paschall creating for me my own little country."
The dispute is rooted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, designed to protect minorities from discriminatory voting practices.
Republicans, especially in the South, have used the act to redraw congressional districts in the past. The tactic surfaced at the legislative level in Colorado two weeks ago, when the reapportionment commission took up legislative districts in Jefferson, Adams and Boulder counties.
House Majority Leader Lola Spradley, R-Beulah, accused Democrats of ignoring Latino wishes. "It is long past time to eliminate this mindset that does not consider the political influence of minorities," she said in a news release.
Her Democratic Party counterpart, Minority Leader Dan Grossman, responded with a news release accusing the Republicans of attempting to put more Democrats into one district in hopes of reducing the re-election chances of Democratic Reps. Betty Boyd and Kelley Daniel in the same part of the county.
The commission's voting Monday reflected that confusion of party roles.
The preliminary plan for 18 House districts in the three counties was approved with District 24 containing just 16 percent Hispanic population.
That was the configuration proposed by Grossman, but he ended up voting against the plan.
The commission chairwoman, Denver County Clerk Rosemary Rodriguez, was the only one of six Democrats to vote for the proposed compromise map. All five Republicans joined her in support.
"I was persuaded on Longmont by the Republicans and on the Hispanic district by the Democrats," Rodriguez explained.
The commission couldn't agree, though, on a plan for the 11 Senate districts in the same counties. It voted 9-2 to ask for new maps.
Several commissioners objected because one Senate plan would have put a large chunk of Longmont into a district containing most of Boulder.
Longmont Mayor Leona Stoecker said she was pleased with the House plan because it split off as little of her city as possible. The rejected Senate plan, however, did what the House plan avoided.
Leaders of Colorado's divided Legislature
last week assembled a bipartisan task force to start tackling
redistricting, several months before legislators are scheduled to consider
an actual map.
Senate President Stan Matsunaka is asking the state Democratic Party to drop its lawsuit asking a court to redraw Colorado's congressional boundaries.
In a letter to Gov. Bill Owens, the Loveland Democrat repeated his support for a special session of the legislature to draw new lines for the state's congressional districts.
Because of population growth between the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census, Colorado is entitled to add a seventh seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Matsunaka met with House Speaker Doug Dean, R-Colorado Springs, Friday after Dean sent Matsunaka a letter urging him to include redistricting on the agenda for a regularly scheduled June 27 meeting of legislative leadership.
"The speaker and I believe that we can communicate and work towards a bipartisan solution," Matsunaka wrote Owens. "If indeed you will be calling the legislature back, when is it your intention to do so?"
A spokeswoman for the governor said he was pondering the letter and had no immediate response.
Redistricting, a highly charged issue in which each party jockeys for advantage, is a responsibility assigned to the legislature by the state constitution.
After lawmakers couldn't reach an agreement on growth legislation at a special session immediately following a regular session, Owens indicated a special session on redistricting might also be futile.
Last week Owens wrote to Matsunaka and Dean saying he would like to call a special session for the issue, but he wants legislative leaders to meet first to "lay the groundwork" so time and money aren't wasted in a $14,000-a-day session.
On May 31, state Democrats representing plaintiffs in each of the six existing congressional districts asked the Denver District Court to draw the new district lines.
State Chairman Tim Knaus said Monday he would "be open to staying the case" if there is a special session or if Owens "gives some pretty firm indication that he's going to call one."
The Associated Press
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
February 19, 2001
Colorado last week became the latest state to face a delayed redistricting process when Gov. Bill Owens (R) told Republicans that he doesn't expect they will be able to conduct the remap during the regular legislative session that ends May 9. "My guess is we're going to get the information so late" that it will be difficult to do anything before the regular session's mandatory adjournment date, Owens told the Denver Post. The information required to draw new House district boundaries may not be available from the Census Bureau until mid-April. Colorado is gaining a seventh seat in the House because of its population growth over the past decade. Owens said he would like the state's seven districts to be "as competitive as possible" between the two major parties. That's difficult, he noted, because of the court-required "community of interest," which would keep Denver intact with its heavy concentration of Democrats. That would leave Republicans dominating the city's heavily populated suburbs, where the seventh district is likely to be located.