Over the past year, two different groups—Fair Districts Colorado and People Not Politicians—introduced separate ballot measures to reform the process for drawing legislative and congressional maps in Colorado.
In January 2018, Colorado Common Cause endorsed Initiatives 95 and 96, which were put forward by People Not Politicians. These initiatives contained many of the democracy-strengthening policies that we believe in: creating a citizen redistricting commission, prioritizing communities of interest and communities of color, and introducing new opportunities for citizen engagement.
After submitting these ballot initiatives, Fair Districts and People Not Politicians decided to work together. Rather than placing competing measures on the Colorado ballot, the two groups have worked with each other—and Colorado Common Cause—to draft new redistricting initiatives, which combine some of the strongest aspects of the previous proposals.
Initiatives 170 and 171
Colorado Common Cause believes that the goal of redistricting should be to draw districts that fairly represent the interests of the communities in our state. Such districts should not be drawn to advantage incumbents or to favor a political party. The best way to accomplish this goal in Colorado is through an independent commission process that is transparent, accessible to, and inclusive of, Colorado citizens.
Initiatives 170 and 171 will create independent citizen redistricting commissions. These commissions will be empowered to draw legislative and congressional district lines in order to achieve fair and equal representation for all Coloradans. Colorado Common Cause supports these measures because they are in line with our principles for redistricting reform and improve our current redistricting systems.
Commission appointments are not made by politicians
For too long, our legislative and congressional districts were designed to represent the interests of political parties. To make districts that represent the people of Colorado, independent commission members must be selected by people other than politicians and political partisans.
Both the legislative and congressional commissions will consist of members who are chosen either by random lottery or by appointment by a panel of three retired judges. This is a significant improvement from our current system in Colorado.
Commission appointments reflect Colorado’s political diversity
Unlike our current process, Initiatives 170 and 171 will require the redistricting commissions to have equal representation of Republican, Democratic and Unaffiliated members.
Commission appointments reflect Colorado’s racial, gender, and geographic diversity
Initiatives 170 and 171 require that the appointments to the commissions reflect the state’s diversity. A panel of three retired judges must choose commissioners that reflect Colorado’s racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. They must also ensure that each congressional district is represented, and that one commissioner is from west of the Continental Divide. The requirement that the commission reflect this broad diversity is important to the process.
Qualifications for commissioners
Initiatives 170 and 171 create a robust application process for those wishing to serve on a commission. This process eliminates individuals who have conflicts of interest, including professional lobbyists, candidates for congressional or legislative office, paid campaign workers, and anyone who has been an elected political party official or held an elected public office in the last three years. No such limitations exist in the current redistricting process in Colorado. These new limitations are critical to ensuring the commissions are independent and that new district lines are drawn for the benefit of all Coloradans.
Commission meetings and deliberations are subject to open meetings laws
Initiatives 170 and 171 require the commissions’ compliance with Colorado’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws. Colorado Common Cause has long supported open and accessible meetings. Only commissions and processes that meet these transparency standards can guarantee that all Colorado residents can participate and have a voice in the process of redistricting.
Commissions provide ample and increased opportunities for citizen engagement
Initiatives 170 and 171 require commissions to hold public hearings throughout the state, and that access be provided electronically as well as in person. The commissions will have websites to allow Coloradans to post comments and engage with the redistricting process. This outreach to communities throughout the state is the only means to ensure meaningful participation.
Standards for drawing lines improves upon our current system
The new criteria set forth in 170 and 171 expands on the number of factors that should be considered during the district-drawing process. The criteria for drawing lines include: population equality, compliance with the Voting Rights Act, preserving whole communities of interest, preserving whole political subdivisions such as cities and counties, and compactness. The protection of communities of interest is important to assure fair representation of all citizens in Colorado. Initiatives 170 and 171 improve on our current process, in which communities of interest and communities of color are largely absent from the redistricting process.
Colorado Common Cause is committed to a democracy that reflects our communities, and we believe these proposals will move all of us to that goal. We strongly support Initiatives 170 and 171.
Office: Colorado Common Cause
Issues: Voting and Elections