Statewide Database | Redistricting News

GOP sets boundaries

March 2, 2004

Rocky Mountain News

Republican lawmakers, still fuming about a congressional redistricting battle, gave committee approval Monday to a bill that would tell the courts what to consider if they draw new boundary lines again.

More importantly, the bill would tell the courts what they couldn't consider: political party registration and election performance. Those are two factors that a Denver judge considered in 2002 when he approved the current boundary lines, said Sen. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican.

Lamborn's bill outlining the six factors courts could consider was approved on a 4-3 party-line vote in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Sen. Moe Keller, a Wheat Ridge Democrat, questioned why it was OK for the legislature, but not the courts, to look at party affiliations in redistricting.

"If we're going to do it in the legislature, we should allow them to do it in the courts," Keller said.

Sen. Alice Nichol, an Adams County Democrat, said, "Do we really have the authority as a legislature to dictate to the courts the criteria they must use in determining the boundaries?"

Senate President John Andrews, a Republican who has led the fight over redistricting, said that Denver Judge John Coughlin specifically mentioned the closeness of party registrations in the new District 7 in the map he approved two years ago.

The court did the redistricting when the Democrat-controlled Senate and the GOP-controlled House couldn't reach a compromise.

But when Republicans regained both houses last year and tried to draw a new map that would strengthen the GOP's hold on five of the seven congressional seats, the Colorado Supreme Court threw their map out.

That finding is now being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Andrews said that Coughlin was right about the competitiveness in the new suburban 7th District. It proved to be the closest congressional race in the country, with Republican Bob Beauprez eking out a 121-vote win over his Democratic challenger, Mike Feeley of Lakewood.

"Apparently it (the map) was selected by the judge specifically because he thought it (the race) would be a tossup," Andrews said.

"In the future, 2011 or 2012, if this is in front of another court, the judge would not be able to say, 'I like the political competitiveness of this district.' "

Lamborn said his bill would ensure that the courts maintain a "high standard of professionalism" in the future in dealing with redistricting.

"The main thing is we would not be including purely political factors," Lamborn said.