DENVER (AP) – Promising “not to do violence to the existing map,” Republican state lawmakers approved a revised congressional redistricting plan Monday, working from a chart drawn 10 years ago by Democrats.
It was a strategy that didn’t play well with Democrats, who argued that the map needed to take into account competitiveness, which is not one of the top criteria for drawing new congressional lines.
Courts have ruled that congressional districts should be drawn to preserve interests that they share, avoid targeting minorities, avoid splitting counties, keep the districts compact and provide equal representation. Competitiveness is not mentioned. GOP Rep. David Balmer said Republicans tried to make as few changes as possible to the existing congressional districts, noting that it was a map adopted by Democrats that dominated Colorado congressional politics for the past 10 years.
“We tried to draw a map similar to the current map. We are trying not to do violence to the existing map,” Balmer said.
Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat from Denver, said Republicans were trying to carve out safe seats, leaving Denver and Boulder safe for Democrats, and making three seats safe for Republicans with only two seats competitive.
An alternative map drawn by Democrats would keep one Republican and one Democratic seat safe, and leave five of the seven seats competitive, he said.
“People want their voices heard. We’re talked about as a battleground state. People want their voices heard,” said Pabon.
Republican Rep. B.J. Nikkel said she knows of no other state that uses competitiveness as a major factor in drawing their maps.
It was a major issue 10 years ago when Colorado gained a new congressional district. When lawmakers failed to come up with their own map, a Denver district court judge picked a map that gave Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters nearly equal representation in the new district. It has been a swing district ever since.
On Monday, House Republicans on a voice vote approved a map they said makes as few changes as possible to the existing congressional districts. The measure (House Bill 1319) faces a formal vote before it goes to the Senate. Democrats offered only token opposition because House Republicans have a 33-32 majority.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader John Morse said senators might take up their own map later in the day.
Lawmakers have until Wednesday to reach an agreement. After that, the Legislature could be called into special session or the issue could be left to the courts to decide.
Legislators are required to draw news congressional lines every 10 years after a census, but redistricting is politically charged as both parties try to maximize their chances.
– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)