Two groups who want to fight gerrymandering in Colorado are joining forces

Fair District Colorado and People Not Politicians are withdrawing separate, previously filed ballot initiatives and will be moving forward with a collective proposal addressing Colorado’s redistricting and reappointment process, according to a release issued Tuesday.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Two groups committed to calling attention to Colorado’s redistricting process are joining forces to prevent “political gerrymandering” and support more competitive elections in the state.

Fair District Colorado and People Not Politicians are withdrawing separate, previously filed ballot initiatives and will be moving forward with a collective proposal addressing Colorado’s redistricting and reappointment process, according to a release issued Tuesday. The plan has support from both Republican and Democrats, including support from former state legislators.

Colorado is projected to gain a single Congressional district seat thanks to a surge in population. It could happen following the 2020 U.S. Census. Colorado has two different process for redistricting US and state legislative districts, according to the state’s website.

According to the release, the state’s current redistricting and reapportionment rules are controlled by state officials and political appointees, which they said can be problematic due to partisan tendencies. The two groups are hoping to create a system that’s more representative of the state’s diverse political affiliations.

The proposal would call for the establishment of an independent commission to oversee the redistricting mapping and include representation from both major parties and unaffiliated voters. It would consist of a more clear-cut map drawing criteria, which the release said would prohibit gerrymandering and help avoid potential legal battles (which is what happened in 2003’s and 2011’s redistricting process). The proposed system would also be much more transparent, including public participating and ensuring the commission’s meetings are open to the public and subjects them to sunshine laws.

The release said that the current system “protects incumbents, and created one competitive congressional district and fewer than 10 competitive seats” in a state that’s pretty evenly divided between Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters.

The release said DaVita CEO Kent Thiry helped lead several community leaders to come together and, “craft a principled compromise to present to the voters of Colorado.” Thiry said in the release that the two groups joining forces is a “victory for compromise and common sense over partisanship.”

“Instead of voters choosing their elected officials, partisan gerrymandering has allowed elected officials to choose their voters,” Thiry said in the release. “Our reforms will fix that, creating a fair process for drawing district lines, giving independents a real seat at the table for the first time, and creating genuinely competitive districts.”

Former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty supported the Fair District measure. He called the agreement historic and said it could spare the state from a “dismal partisan train wreck” that happened during the last two redistricting phases in Colorado.

“More importantly, it sets up a process where a balanced commission of citizens governed by thoughtful checks and balances will almost certainly have the last say on congressional and legislative districts, rather than judges,” McNulty said in the release. “Gerrymandering will very literally be illegal, and many more seats at the state and federal level will actually be subject to true electoral competition.”

People Not Politicians member and former state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a Democrat, said the measures were carefully negotiated to benefit Coloradans, “of all backgrounds” to have representation. Ulibarri currently serves as Interim Co-Executive Director of Wellstone.

“I’m proud of the leadership of voting and civil rights organizations who fought to protect the hard-earned voting rights of communities of color in this process,” Ulibarri said in the release.