Currently, the boundaries for state legislative districts are drawn by an 11-member Reapportionment Commission (established by constitutional amendment in 1974). In contrast, congressional redistricting is done by the General Assembly, a process that is overly politicized and rarely completed without the assistance of the Supreme Court. The legislature’s authority to control redistricting drew renewed criticism after the Republican majority rapidly passed a re-redistricting plan, aka the ‘midnight gerrymander,’ in 2003. This attempt to redistrict a second time during the decade was challenged and rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court.
Under the current system for congressional redistricting, districts are drawn with an eye toward protecting incumbents and promoting partisan advantage for the party in power. In 2004, we proposed a ballot initiative to establish an independent redistricting commission and set criteria for the commission to use to draw districts. For political and financial reasons, this measure was not placed on the ballot. Legislative proposals also have been developed and introduced with limited momentum. In 2008, legislation to enhance public participation in the redistricting process and instruct the legislature that drawing competitive districts should be a factor in their work was swiftly defeated.