The question left unasked

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on August 15, 2006

The coverage of Colorado's redistricting pales in comparison to the attention given to the mid-decade redistricting that occurred in Texas. Unlike in the Texas case, Democrats didn't flee the state in order to deny a quorum in the legislature. Also, because Colorado is a smaller state, fewer House seats were at issue.

Keeping those facts in mind, a federal appeals court last week threw out Colorado's legislatively drawn districts.

The dispute dates to the 2000 census, which showed Colorado's population grew enough to earn the state a seventh seat in the U.S. House. The Legislature, then split between Republicans and Democrats, failed to agree on new boundaries in time for the 2002 elections, prompting a Denver judge to map the districts.

By 2003, Republicans had gained control of the Legislature and adopted a new redistricting map to replace the court-imposed map.

When Democrats challenged the GOP-favored map, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature gets only one chance a decade to redistrict and lawmakers missed that chance when they failed to agree on a plan in 2002. Justices threw out the 2003 map and restored the state court's map.

On the face of it, it's difficult to reconcile this ruling by the appeals court with last term's Supreme Court decision upholding Texas' mid-census redistricting.

The question left unasked, and unanswered, is what distinguishes this case from the Texas case that the two courts can come to diametrically opposed results. Reading the ruling (found here), it appears that Colorado state law is at issue -- but the state Supreme Court ruling occurred before the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court takes up the case, or merely returns it to the state courts to act on in line with the Texas ruling.


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August 2006



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