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On Colo. Map Flap, “What are we afraid of?”

Posted by Kelly Maher on December 3rd, 2011
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In the wake of Map Flap, we advocated that Chairman Mario Carrera of the Colorado Reapportionment Commission should have allowed either both the Democratic and Republican maps be sent on to the state Supreme Court, or neither. It was clear that by voting for a wholesale new map - and going into procedural backflips to prevent the Republican map from even being entered into the record (much less offered to the Supreme Court as a minority report) the Democrats were afraid of the actual content of the Republican proposal. Well, ladies and gentlemen, here is Map Proposal G.

After Republicans realized late Monday that the Democrats had created a whole new map over the Thanksgiving weekend that was then going to be introduced and voted on early Tuesday, they realized their only recourse was to work late into the night Monday to create a superior map in the hopes it would be adopted as a minority report. Or, at least entered into the record for the court to consider as well. The question of whether or not the map is - in fact - a part of the record was the basis of a contentious discussion at the meeting, but the Democrats and Carrera passed a motion 6-5to prevent any minority report to the court.

When commissioner Rob Witwer, a Republican, discussed in the meeting if Map G should be part of the record, he said:

“Clare just handed us some e-mails from people of Longmont objecting to the map that we just passed - by the way, with no debate about that map - we just passed that House map. This has become a part of the record and something that was submitted and presented to the commission and the commission had the opportunity to consider is a part of the record. Now the alternative to that is that it’s not part of the record, and the reason that it’s not part of the record is becaue you don’t want it part of the record, you don’t want to see what’s in it. So my question is: ‘What are we afraid of?’”

The answer is clear. “They” are afraid to allow the additional map on the record becuase when the Supreme Court remanded the original maps back to the commission on Nov. 15, they did so with the explicit instructions to reduce the number of “county splits.” The map submitted late night by the Democrats managed to reduce county splits to that point but then went on to draw a suspiciously high number of incumbents (I’m sure coincidentally almost exclusively Republicans) into districts together. This created a situation where many current sitting Republican legislators would face primaries with their colleagues. Although incumbency was not a criteria in the remand order by the court, many Republicans saw a blatant gerrymander, followed by an attempt to suppress any further options or proposals.

For evidence that Map F was unnecessarily political, one merely needs to look at El Paso County. In all versions of the map there are eight districts wholly contained in El Paso . . . yet Map F, the one dropped by the Democrats on Sunday night, is the only version where Republican incumbents are drawn into districts together.

Ultimately, Republicans came to the table Tuesday morning with Map G that had four fewer county splits than the the Democratic proposed map approved by the commission on a 6-5 vote.

I asked Commissioner Mario Nicolais, a Republican,

If Map G was superior in terms of the Supreme Court instructions, then why wasn’t it the version Republican members submitted on the original Wednesday deadline?

“There were some innovative ideas in Map F on how to avoid some county splits,” said Mario Nicolais, a Republican on the commission. “That’s why I would have loved to have had it on Wednesday so we could have incorporated their good ideas with our good ideas. Map G managed to integrate some of their ideas on how to avoid adding part of one county to another and still avoid some of the negative aspects of their map.”

If Carrera had allowed both post-deadline maps to the table, it would have become clear that the Map G proposal was more compliant with instructions from the court. Democrats feared the map because if the court were to choose it, their attempts at incumbent-grouping, political vindictiveness would be as transparent to the Justices as it is to the rest of us.

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  • Post by Kelly Maher on December 3rd, 2011

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