A bill that Democrats say opens up the redistricting process to gerrymandering and represents a sign of bad faith by Republicans was introduced in the state House Friday. However, Rep. Jake Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, the bill’s sponsor, said it simply repairs changes Democrats made last year.
The bill prohibits courts from considering non-neutral factors such as political parties. It further adds the Eastern Plains and the Western Slope to a list of areas of interest that should remain whole whenever possible, and it creates an order of importance for neutral factors the court must use. Currently there is no order of importance stipulated to the neutral factors in legislation.
“This plan will manipulate the congressional redistricting process so that we’re stuck with narrowly drawn, gerrymandered districts for the next 10 years,” said House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo. “They’re repeating history with another bad idea, similar to the ‘Midnight Gerrymandering’ plan they rammed through the legislature in 2003. Coloradans deserve competitive, fairly-drawn districts. Republicans clearly disagree and it’s the people of Colorado who will lose out.”
Pace took issue with a portion of the bill that instructs the courts to avoid breaking up cities and counties with preference being given to the more populous places.
“Last year the Democrats passed a bill at the end of the session that took out a section on communities of interest.” Brown said. “It removed the Eastern Plains and the Western Slope as communities of interest. This bill just puts them back.”
Pace, however, disagreed with Brown’s assertion the bill would have little effect.
“This legislation undermines the work of the bipartisan redistricting committee, and it undermines the people of Colorado taking the time and trouble to testify before the committee,” Pace said.
This bill has nothing to do with the joint redistricting committee, Brown told the Colorado Independent. He said it would only apply if the redistricting decision would go to the courts.
Brown said Senate sponsor Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and Club 20 members agree with him about introducing the bill at the start of the session rather than trying to push it through at the end.