Archive for May 4th, 2011


So the Colorado Republicans have produced a compromise map in an effort to avoid a crapshoot showdown in the courts.  Given that there are a fair number of Republican-appointed judges out there now – not the case in 2001 – the chances of winning are perhaps higher.  But you essentially give up control over the process when you send it to litigation, and politicians would always rather negotiate solution than have one imposed.

The Republican map tweaks things a little here and there from their original map, but it still looks pretty much like the current set of districts.  It adheres to constitutional and statutory principles for districts (keeping together communities of interest, Denver, the Western Slope and the Eastern Plains), it assumes that various parts of the state will have the chance to elect representative who actually live there.

The Democrat map, of course, does none of these things.  Competitiveness is a goal I actually agree with, but by law, it can’t override those existing requirements.  Moreover, as has been pointed out, portions of every district in the state would lie within sight of DIA.  If you thought that Denver thought the rest of the state was in orbit around it before, well, a fortieri.

Unfortunately, the map’s politics, in the battle for public opinion, will get a boost from Colorado’s geography.  (That the Denver Post will be giving it a helping hand goes without saying.)

A few weeks ago, there was an article online (which I can’t find any more) that talked about do-it-yourself redistricting software.  One group of New York Democrats had fun trying to figure out a way to get a state full of Democrat-majority or -plurality districts.  They were able to do it by essentially carving the state up into ribbons, with every district getting a little piece of the Democrat-heavy New York City & Suburbs, enough to wipe out or neutralize the Republican-friendly upstate areas.  If “gerrymander” comes from “salamander,” this was a whole maelstrom of ’em.  You couldn’t push through a map like that, and nobody was really interested in trying.

The Colorado Democrats’ map just doesn’t look that threatening.  Denver is located closer to the middle of the state than NYC is.  We don’t have 30+ representatives, we have 7.  And since the one rule the Democrats obeyed – by coincidence, no doubt – was to keep Denver intact, they only had to get 6 districts to work out.  The result is something that, while radical surgery compared to what we had before, doesn’t look all that bad if you’re starting out fresh.  In the game of “let’s see how much we can get away with,” this much have come as a delightful surprise.

So in what’s left of negotiations (and there’s always room for a special legislative session; earn that $30,000, guys), and what may come down to a court battle, the Republicans have that to overcome.  They need to continue to pound away that while you might not think Grand Junction has much in common with Pueblo, it’s got more in common with it than it does with Boulder.  They need to remind people that while DIA is a world-class airport, keeping the ATC guys awake by letting them play “how many Congressional districts can we see today?” from the tower isn’t actually a statutory requirement.

I agree with some others that the Rs look more statesmanlike in presenting a compromise map.  They also have the luxury of being able to compromise.  It’s not clear that the Dems’ maps can actually change that much without the whole plan falling apart.  Now they need to keep at it, and not  buckle under the pressure to meet an artificial deadline.

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