Vote yes on “Y” and “Z” this fall.
These two ballot measures, appearing in November, may represent the one thing most Coloradans can agree on. Each measure ensures more fair competition among candidates for public office. They eliminate political gerrymandering. Y reforms congressional districting, and Z does the same for state legislative seats.
A bipartisan group called Fair Maps Colorado convinced the Colorado General Assembly to unanimously refer each measure to the ballot.
“Competitive districts, while respecting traditional boundaries and communities of interest, create more competitive elections, better candidates and hopefully better outcomes,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Partisan politics drive Colorado’s traditional redistricting process, which occurs after each 10-year federal census. No one wins; everyone loses.
The legislature and governor draw Colorado’s congressional districts. Courts have intervened for the past 20 years, as the process leads to bitterly divided partisan outcomes.
For state legislative redistricting, Colorado uses a partisan commission that requires no balance or inclusion of unaffiliated commissioners.
The politicized processes create congressional and legislative districts so safe for Republicans and Democrats we have few competitive races in general elections. Throughout Colorado, partisan primaries typically determine who serves in public office. It means parties and partisans control seats that should be up for grabs by Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Of Colorado’s 35 state senate districts, only about seven are “competitive” in general elections. About 15 of Colorado’s 65 state House districts are competitive. Six of Colorado’s seven congressional districts are considered safe, and non-competitive.
Davita CEO Kent Thiry, an unaffiliated voter, spearheads Fair Maps Colorado along with Democratic businessman Joe Zimlich and Republican University of Colorado Regent and businesswoman Heidi Ganahl. Thiry also led the successful effort to include unaffiliated voters in Colorado primaries.
Amendments Y and Z would establish one commission to draw congressional boundaries, and another for legislative redistricting. Four Republicans, four Democrats, and four unaffiliated voters would comprise each commission.
Three retired judges would review and narrow pools of applicants for commission slots. A lottery drawing from the select pools would choose the first six seats for each commission (two Rs, two Ds, and two Us). The panel of retired judges would unanimously select the final six (two Rs, two Ds, and two Us).
The amendments exclude from commissions all recent political campaign workers; politicians holding office within the past five years; recent political party officials or employees; registered lobbyists; and others with potential motives to politicize redistricting.
Y and Z expressly protect boundaries drawn to encapsulate common, non-political, demographic interests. For example: Colorado’s Fifth Congressional District includes all of Colorado Springs, because the city’s residents have common interests.
A who’s who of bipartisan and unaffiliated endorsers support Y and Z. Former Democratic governors Bill Ritter and Roy Romer support the reforms, along with former Republican Gov. Bill Owens. Former Senate President John Andrews, a Republican who founded the conservative Centennial institute, supports the measure with former Democratic Senate President Stan Matsunaka. Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican, supports it along with Democratic members of the Boulder City Council. A long list of other endorsements continues to grow.
We can’t find anyone who considers either of these amendments a bad idea.
“People don’t like gerrymandering,” said Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays, explaining the bipartisan support.
Make elections competitive again throughout Colorado. Vote for a fair, non-partisan approach to drawing lines. Say no to gerrymandering, by voting “yes” on Y and Z.
The Gazette Editorial Board