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Former governors supporting push to change Colorado redistricting rules

November 17, 2015 Updated: November 17, 2015 at 7:09 pm
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photo - The current Colorado congressional district map.
The current Colorado congressional district map. 

DENVER - Two former governors want to ask voters to overhaul the way Colorado draws congressional and state legislative districts to end the gerrymandering that has created safe-districts for the majority of the state's politicians.

Former Govs. Bill Owens and Dick Lamm, a Republican and a Democrat respectively, hope to gather almost 100,000 signatures to ask voters next November to create a bipartisan independent commission and staff to handle both redistricting and reapportionment.

"Putting responsibility for drawing districts in the hands of nonpartisan professionals committed to fairness and competition will produce the most accountable and effective representation in the entire country," Owens said in a statement released Tuesday evening.

The measure also has the support of former Republican and Democrat secretaries of state Gigi Dennis and Bernie Buescher, and former speakers of the House Frank McNulty and Mark Ferrandino.

"For too long these negotiations have been controlled by one party behind closed doors," Dennis said.

Ballot language was submitted Tuesday and will be vetted by the legislative staff and Secretary of State's office before signature gathering can begin. The process of redistricting congressional seats and reapportioning state legislative seats occurs every 10 years after the census is released. It was last done in 2011, and if a ballot measure is approved it would affect how redistricting is done in 2021.

Buescher agreed.

"It's just not right that the political parties use redistricting to try to gain unfair advantages, and both parties have done it," Buescher said. "This gives everybody a fair and equal chance."

Buescher said changing redistricting laws would make more competitive districts, which would compel legislators to reach out to more of their constituents.

Congressional redistricting is done by the General Assembly with a bill that is passed by both chambers and sent to the governor. In 2011 no bill was passed and the issue landed in the courts. State legislative reapportionment is handled by an 11-member commission that is appointed by legislative leaders, the governor and the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Under the proposed ballot initiative, a new commission would handle both processes and consist of four appointed Democrats, four appointed Republicans and four unaffiliated members who are agreed upon by the other eight members. It would require a super-majority of eight commission members to approve new maps.

The new law would also require map drawers to be nonpartisan staff who are required to draw competitive districts.

The initiative has a long road ahead and language must be approved before the signature gathering process can begin. Those signatures will need to be verified before anything can be placed on the ballot.

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Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644

Twitter @CapitolSchrader

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