Amendment Y and Amendment Z in the 2018 Colorado election: What to know

This is the one about gerrymandering.

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(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The reason you’ve likely seen Amendments Y and Z grouped together (even though they are two different measures and two different bubbles on your ballot) is they mostly seek the same goal: Creating an independent panels with 12 appointed members from both major parties to help create new district maps.

Amendment Y would do this for Congressional districts while Amendment Z does this for state legislative district maps. The state legislature is currently responsible for creating these district boundaries. These two measures, which would change the state constitution, would take that responsibility out of the hands of the General Assembly.

There would be rules about who can be allowed onto the panel and the language includes several people who won’t be allowed to be a part of it: professional lobbyists, federal campaign committee employees, and federal, state, and local elected officials.

The panel would call for four members who are unaffiliated, four members from the largest political party and four members from the second-largest political party. (Obviously right now, that would mean Democrats and Republicans.) It also places some limits on how courts can review the panel’s decision and requires the panel take into consideration cities and counties. It specifically adds that the maps can’t be drawn to make it harder for voters from racial or ethnic groups to have their voices heard, or drawn to help protect the interests of a political party, someone already in office or someone seeking office (aka gerrymandering).

The measures seek to make seats more competitive, which would theoretically have a big impact on the Congressional seats, which are currently … mostly not competitive. (Except one!) Redistricting takes place every 10 years following the U.S. Census count, which will next take place in 2020. Colorado is expected to gain one congressional seat, bringing the state’s total to eight.

Here’s the language you’ll see on your ballot:

Amendment Y

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a change to the way that congressional districts are drawn, and, in connection therewith, taking the duty to draw congressional districts away from the state legislature and giving it to an independent commission, composed of twelve citizens who possess specified qualifications; prohibiting any one political party’s control of the commission by requiring that one-third of commissioners will not be affiliated with any political party, one-third of the commissioners will be affiliated with the state’s largest political party, and one-third of the commissioners will be affiliated with the state’s second largest political party; prohibiting certain persons, including professional lobbyists, federal campaign committee employees, and federal, state, and local elected officials, from serving on the commission; limiting judicial review of a map to a determination by the supreme court of whether the commission or its nonpartisan staff committed an abuse of discretion; requiring the commission to draw districts with a focus on communities of interest and political subdivisions, such as cities and counties, and then to maximize the number of competitive congressional seats to the extent possible; and prohibiting maps from being drawn to dilute the electoral influence of any racial or ethnic group or to protect any incumbent, any political candidate, or any political party?

Amendment Z

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a change to the manner in which state senate and state house of representatives districts are drawn, and, in connection therewith, reforming the existing legislative reapportionment commission by expanding the commission to twelve members and authorizing the appointment of members who possess specified qualifications; prohibiting any one political party’s control of the commission by requiring that one-third of commissioners will not be affiliated with any political party, one-third of the commissioners will be affiliated with the state’s largest political party, and one-third of the commissioners will be affiliated with the state’s second largest political party; prohibiting certain persons, including professional lobbyists, federal campaign committee employees, and federal, state, and local elected officials, from serving on the commission; limiting judicial review of a map to a determination by the supreme court of whether the commission or its nonpartisan staff committed an abuse of discretion; requiring the commission to draw state legislative districts using communities of interest as well as political subdivisions, such as cities and counties, and then to maximize the number of competitive state legislative seats to the extent possible; and prohibiting maps from being drawn to dilute the electoral influence of any racial or ethnic group or to protect any incumbent, any political candidate, or any political party?

What does that mean?

Amendment Y

If you vote yes, you’re saying you support establishing an independent panel to determine new districting boundaries for Colorado’s congressional district. It won’t allow certain people from being part of this 12-member panel including professional lobbyists and federal, state, and local elected officials.

The amendment passes only if 55 percent of voters check yes.

Amendment Z

If you vote yes, you’re saying you support establishing a 12-member independent panel to determine new boundaries for the state’s house and senate districts.

The amendment passes only if 55 percent of voters check yes.

Who’s for it and who’s against it?

Fair Map Colorado is advocating for the two amendment’s passing.  The group was formed when two different groups trying to pass similar anti-gerrymandering laws joined forces. They believe the two initiatives will effectively outlaw gerrymandering, the practice of drawing a district to try to achieve political gain for one party, and provide more transparency in the process. Their hope is by providing a better outline, it will help avoid what’s happened during the last two redistricting cycles, when courts had to decide boundaries after the two major parties failed to come to an agreement after the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census. The thinking is if one party control the General Assembly, they could end up pushing for boundaries that benefit them most.

Columnist Ari Armstrong has been one critic of the two ballot measures. While he opposes gerrymandering and supports the idea of a 12-member commission, he thinks the two measures “blatantly discriminate” minor party members in the state. He thinks members of Libertarian, American Constitution, Green, or Unity should have a chance to be included on the panel. He says members of these parties could a claim that such a measure would violate their constitutional rights.

Four states have independent commissions like the one in the proposal including California, Arizona, Idaho and Washington.

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election 2018