Udall lauds redistricting rejection | VailDaily.com

Udall lauds redistricting rejection

Steven K. Paulson

DENVER – A lawsuit has been filed by four state lawmakers, including one Democrat, to restore the Legislature’s congressional redistricting plan, a map that on Monday was thrown out by the state Supreme Court.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver by Rep. Carl Miller, D-Leadville, and three members of the GOP alleges the decision violates the U.S. Constitution.

“”My reasons for doing this are parochial, not political,” said Miller. He said Monday’s ruling took away the legislature’s “”duty and obligation” to decide congressional districts, which was granted to the General Assembly by the Constitution.

“”I absolutely believe that redistricting is the job of the General Assembly,” Miller said. “”No matter what it takes we should duke it out. We shouldn’t run to the courts.”

Republicans involved in Monday’s decision said the state constitution requires the legislature to draw congressional boundaries, and they’ll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyer John Zakhem filed Wednesday’s lawsuit.

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“”I believe Monday’s Supreme Court decision was a constraint on our civil liberties and our right to vote in the state. It devalues the right of suffrage in Colorado,” he said.

Colorado’s Supreme Court on Monday ruled 5-2, along party lines with Democrats in the majority, that a redistricting map drawn by Republicans who held the majority in the state House and Senate was unconstitutional.

Instead, the court ordered that a map drawn up by a state judge in Denver in 2002 be used for elections until the next redistricting, following the 2010 census.

Wednesday’s lawsuit seeks an injunction to prohibit the secretary of state from enforcing the 2002 map.

“”There are a lot of people concerned about the language in the state Supreme Court ruling,” said House Speaker Lola Spradley, R-Beulah, said. “”I welcome bipartisan support on the issue.”

– The Associated Press

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PULL QUOTE

“The power to elect resides with the people – not just party leaders – and it is in everyone’s interest for congressional districts and congressional elections to be truly competitive.”

– Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder

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Eagle County’s congressman says “law and justice” have won out over partisan political gamesmanship in the Colorado Supreme Court’s rejection of a Republican-drawn state congressional map.

Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder, was a plaintiff in the case against Republicans he accused of attempted to skew the state’s Congressional district in their favor.

“The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision is right for democracy, right for the American political system and right for the taxpayers,” Udall said. “The court has clearly stated that the last-minute Republican power grab is unconstitutional because redistricting can only occur once every 10 years.-

“This decision should send a clear message to those who would rig our political system for partisan political purposes,” he said.

Neither the redrawn map nor the court’s decision moved Eagle County out of Udall’s Second Congressional District, but the decision could tip the balance of power in Congress. Democrats have been given a chance to gain competitive ground in two Colorado congressional races next year if a state high court ruling in a redistricting lawsuit stands.

The court’s ruling kept in place a 2002 map authored by a state district judge.

Under that map, Republican Bob Beauprez won the 7th Congressional District seat by 121 votes. The other seat is in the 3rd Congressional District in western Colorado where Republican incumbent Scott McInnis is stepping down.

Competition questioned

While both seats are considered competitive, political observers have mixed views on whether Democrats could win either one. They said the outcome will depend on the candidates and acknowledged that Beauprez will have an edge as an incumbent.

“”When you win by 121 votes, you’re very vulnerable, but I’m betting on Beauprez. I always bet on the incumbents,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said Tuesday.

University of Colorado political science professor Michael D. Kanner agreed. “”I don’t really see any increase in the competitiveness of any of Colorado’s congressional districts,” he said.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruling was part of a national effort by Democrats to overturn Republican attempts to shore up their majority in Congress, where they need to gain 12 seats to take control of the 435-member House next year.

Denver District Judge John Coughlin redrew the state’s congressional districts last year after lawmakers failed to agree on boundaries in wake of the 2000 census. Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers enacted the new map.

The court ruled Monday that Republican lawmakers violated the Colorado Constitution by ramming a new map through the Legislature. Colorado’s constitution calls for redistricting only once a decade after each census and before the next general election.

“Enough is enough,” Udall said. “If the Republicans don’t get the election results they want, or if those election results are too close for comfort, they should gear up for the next election; they shouldn’t game the system for their own partisan political advantage.-

“This kind of foolishness is what makes Americans lose faith in their political system,” he added. “There has to be fairness and finality when it comes to redistricting, especially when the Colorado taxpayers are paying for it.” –

Power politics-

Those on the losing side of the decision say the judges have created a fourth branch of government whose members will charge into the middle of disputes whenever they want.

However State Attorney General Ken Salazar, who brought the lawsuit, said such fears are unfounded.

The disagreement followed Monday’s ruling that rejected a GOP-endorsed redistricting plan approved in his year’s legislature, forcing Colorado to revert to the districts imposed by a state judge in Denver last year.

The opinion not only addressed redistricting, but affirmed the power of Colorado attorneys general to sue over laws they consider wrong.

“”The Supreme Court has mounted the attorney general on a white horse and allowed him to charge into the middle of legislation any time they want to,” said state Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial. “”I’m shocked and distressed that the court is setting up the attorney general as sort of a fourth branch of government here.”

Salazar said those concerns needn’t be given credibility.

“”What the Supreme Court did was simply affirm the powers of the attorney general as an independently elected official,” he said. “”These are not new powers. These are powers that have been exercised by attorneys general in Colorado for 127 years.”

Salazar, a Democrat, sued the state to overturn the redistricting law, but Republicans challenged the attorney general’s power to sue his own client.

Professor Robert Hardaway of the University of Denver School of Law, a former deputy district attorney in Arapahoe County, warned of confusion if such a concept is carried through.

“”There are three branches of government, and when you start splitting every one of them down, you can ultimately get chaos,” he said.

Udall, however, said the court’s decision “shows that elections matter.”-

“The power to elect resides with the people – not just party leaders – and it is in everyone’s interest for congressional districts and congressional elections to be truly competitive,” he said. “Coloradans will be well served by this decision, which is based on the American principles of accountability, fairness and stability.”

Vail Daily City Editor Matt Zalaznick contributed to this report.