Fair Maps Colorado, a campaign advocating for amendments Y and Z to pass in the November 2018 election, began its statewide campaign in Grand Junction Monday on the steps of the Mesa County building.
The campaign hopes to change the campaigns in Colorado’s future by changing the way in which districts the state’s U.S Congressional seats and state legislature seats are drawn. Multiple cases of gerrymandering districts accuse law makers of creating unfair districts favoring the party in power across the country and are expected to be heard by the United States Supreme Court.
“The conversation around gerrymandering definitely caused me to get involved in this and I realized how big of an issue it is long term.” said Heidi Ganahl, the republican regent for the University of Colorado from the third congressional district.
Technology has increased the precision to which districts can be manipulated to where they are considered “safe” for one party or another, advocates supporting Fair Maps Colorado say.
“That’s been part of the problem. Folks have gotten better at either diluting the folks that they don’t want to have a voice or packing them all into one district.” said Bernie Buescher, a democrat that has previously served as both a Colorado state representatives and the State’s Secretary of State, “Either is wrong.”
Ganahl says, over 90% of the districts in Colorado are “safe” for a party and lack a realistic chance of changing party hands. Uncompetitive districts exist on the Western Slope as well.
“A lot of the districts in western Colorado are not effectively competitive.” said Christain Reece, the executive director for Club 20, “When you look back at who has won those districts, it’s the same political party every time.”
Reece expects some, yet small, opposition to amendments Y and Z, but with more than two months until election day, has not heard of any yet.
Reece, Ganahl and Buescher agree that when districts are less competitive, it dilutes voices of minority ideologies, creates gridlock and an atmosphere where it’s harder for real problems to be addressed.
“If there are more and more folks from safe districts, they’re less inclined to talk to each other, their less inclined to compromise, [and] they’re less inclined to work for the entire population that they represent.” said Buescher.
Beuscher, a democrat, Ganahl, a republican, and Club 20, a non-partisan group, say their coming together to support the initiatives are representative of the urgency of the issue and what the campaign stands for. Both amendments made it on to the November ballot by a unanimous vote in both the republican-controlled Colorado Senate and democrat-controlled House of Representatives.
“It truly is everyone coming together to work on something, which is rare right now.” said Ganahl, “The fact that it made it through with 100% of the legislature vote says a lot.”
The amendments would create two 12-person commissions to draw state (amendment Z) and congressional districts (amendment Y) come census time.
The commissions would be made up of 4 democrats, 4 republicans, and 4 unaffiliated voters.
Among other criteria, unaffiliated voters would need to be unaffiliated for at least five consecutive years before the census.
Here is how the selection process, in which Colorado Voters can apply to be on the board, would break down, according to Fair Maps Colorado:
Phase One: Application Process
* Colorado citizens interested in serving on the commission shall complete an application, subject to certain qualifying and disqualifying criteria.
Phase Two: Appointment of First Six Commissioners
* Creation of a Pool Via Random Selection: A panel of retired judges and justices, no more than one of which shall belong to any given party, shall randomly select 1,050 applicants, 300 of whom shall be registered with the state’s largest political party, 300 of whom shall be selected with the state’s second largest political party, and 450 of whom shall not be registered with any political party.
* Vetting to Choose Finalists: From the pool chosen via random selection, the retired judicial panel reviews applications and selects 50 applicants registered with the state’s largest political party, 50 applicants registered with the state’s second largest political party, and 50 applicants not registered with any political party, utilizing the following criteria:
o Experience in organizing, representing, advocating for, adjudicating the interests of, or actively participating in groups, organizations, or associations in Colorado.
o Relevant analytical skills, the ability to be impartial, and the ability to promote consensus on the commission.
* Six Finalists Chosen by Lot: The judicial panel shall select by lot two members of the state’s largest political party, two members of the state’s second largest political party, and two members not affiliated with any political party.
Phase Three: Appointment of Second Six Commissioners
* Legislative Leaders Establish Finalist Pools: The Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, the House Majority Leader and the House Minority Leader each select 10 finalists who belong to one of the state’s two largest political parties, the names of which are forwarded to the panel of retired judges.
* Six Finalists Chosen: The panel of retired judges shall make six final appointments to the commission, as follows, ensuring geographic, ethnic, racial diversity, and gender diversity:
* Final Four Partisan Appointments: The panel of retired judges makes one appointment each from the pools of finalists forwarded to it by the four legislative leaders.
* Final Two Unaffiliated Appointments: The panel of retired judges makes two appointments from the 450 applicants not affiliated with any political party initially chosen by lot.
Information taken from a release provided from Fair Maps Colorado
As part of a constitutional amendment voted on in 2016, all amendments, including Y and Z must gain 55% of the vote respectively in order to pass.