Statewide Database | Redistricting News

Democrats: It's all a big lie

Friday, May 16, 2003

Denver Post

- Republicans are writing in a column opposite this one that it is their "duty" and "obligation" to redistrict Colorado 's congressional districts to ensure five out of seven seats are firmly in Republican hands. That is a lie.

To begin with, the Republicans are lying because House Majority Leader Tom DeLay admitted openly that this is a power grab. He said publicly that he wants more Republicans in Congress. That is his job, he claimed, not a constitutional duty. Finally, a little honesty.

It is not anyone's duty to redraw district lines because the legislature ceded that authority in 2002 when it could not agree on a plan that included competitive districts. Even after three attempts, Republicans refused to compromise.

If you don't believe me, then you might be persuaded by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote in Branch vs. Smith, "The state (and the state and federal courts) should be given the full time available, right up until the time when further delay will disrupt the election process, to reapportion according to state law. Under our view, if the state fails to redistrict, then federal courts may do so." Simply, a judge's order is of equal validity to that of the legislature.

If Senate President John Andrews or his acolytes claim otherwise, then wouldn't that mean that President Bush is illegitimate, given that a court was the deciding factor in his "victory"?

It was not just a bad plan for redistricting, but they pushed that plan through in the final days of the legislature by violating Senate rules and rights guaranteed every legislator through the Colorado Constitution. When it became clear on the first day that Senate Bill 352 was introduced that Democrats in the Senate might be successful in filibustering until midnight when the bill would have died, Andrews and his Republicans made a kangaroo court out of the Senate.

Specifically, they refused to recognize senators who wished to speak. They violated Article V, Section 13 of the Colorado Constitution, which guarantees a "roll call" vote if requested by any senator. They resorted to "ayes and nays" - votes that do not record any actual votes, but just that of the body.

As this newspaper so aptly editorialized, they made a mockery of the rule that bills must be read at length if so requested. Instead of reading a 42-page bill at length, they had 20 people each read two pages all at the same time. This is ultimately why non-partisan staffers quit in protest over the destruction of the democratic process.

The Senate proceedings under Andrews' gavel resembled something out of Serbia , Mogadishu or any country that believes laws and rules don't count if they get in the way. One reporter wrote that he was glad the Iraqis weren't watching because it was tyranny in action and utterly anti-democratic.

It is clear that Republicans committed serious violations of the Constitution, trampled personal liberties and made a mockery of long-held Senate traditions. But the plan itself has major problems.

It splits the Western Slope in half despite testimony and a brief by Gov. Owens that he would steadfastly veto any plan that did that. (I suppose he forgot about that promise.) Their plan packs Hispanics into Denver 's 1st District and decreases Hispanics in the 7th District, represented by Bob Beauprez, from 19 percent to 14 percent. It also splits Pueblo in half and makes five out of seven districts uncompetitive for Democrats.

Essentially, Democrats and unaffiliated voters - two-thirds of the state's votes - will not have any voice in five congressional elections.

This was nothing less than a White House plot to take over the U.S. House of Representatives for decades to come. It will ensure Bush's re-election and create a one-party system in America .

Nothing to be decided in November '04. No discussion and no dissent. When Karl Rove and Tom Delay say, "Jump," Andrews and Owens say, "How high?"

I am proud of my colleagues in the Colorado and Texas state legislatures for our efforts and attempts at stopping this sinister and secret plot. We used every tool at our disposal and we will fight them with every last breath. Our constituents, including Democrats, independents and, yes, Republicans, deserve nothing less in the preservation of democracy - competitive and fair elections where every vote counts, no matter who casts it.

The real travesty in this is that for all their plotting and scheming, no funding for higher education will be restored; not a single patient will be eligible for Medicare; not a single pothole will be paved; small businesses still can't afford insurance; nor will a hungry child be fed. Andrews may have been successful in pushing through his anti-democratic gerrymandering plan, but he failed the people of Colorado .

All Republicans in the House and Senate are singing the same song: "It was our job and we had to do it." Just because they say it does not make it true.

Tom Delay was right: They redistricted not because they had to, not because it was better, not because it was right - but simply because they could.

Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald is the Senate minority leader. She represents Jefferson, Gilpin, Clear Creek and Boulder counties.