December 01, 2003
Dems win one in Colorado

Via Kos and Colorado Luis: The Colorado State Supreme Court has struck down the last minute re-redistricting job done by the state's General Assembly.

In its ruling, the full court decided that a Republican redistricting plan, pushed through the state General Assembly in the closing days of this year's session, was unconstitutional because Colorado's congressional districts had already been redrawn in 2002 by a Denver judge after lawmakers could not agree.

The Supreme Court decided that under Colorado's 1876 constitution, new congressional boundaries could be drawn only once a decade, following the federal census.

"The plain language of this constitutional provision not only requires redistricting after a federal census and before the ensuing general election, but also restricts the legislature from redistricting at any other time," said an opinion delivered by Mary J. Mullarkey, chief justice of the seven-member court. "In short, the state constitution limits redistricting to once per census, and nothing in state or federal law negates this limitation. Having failed to redistrict when it should have, the General Assembly has lost its chance to redistrict until after the 2010 federal census."

Two justices issued dissenting opinions in the case, which Mullarkey said pitted "two strongly opposed views of the Colorado constitution" against each other.

The court's announcement is here, and opinions can be found here and here (both are Word docs).

The immediate effect is that two of Colorado's seven Congressional seats have gone from being more solidly Republican to being competitive. Republicans currently hold a 5-2 advantage, but one GOP Congressman is stepping down and another won in 2002 by 121 votes.

As for the pending Texas case, I doubt this will be a consideration. The Democrats are not claiming that the act of redistricting was illegal, they are claiming that the end result violates the Voting Rights Act. One can point to this ruling as a good omen if one likes, but I wouldn't take it any farther than that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 01, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

I really would like to celebrate this one, but I'm afraid the Republicans will snatch it all away in federal court (or at the SCOTUS level) eventually, which would hurt worse than losing at the state level in the first place.

Posted by: UncleBob on December 1, 2003 1:13 PM

Not a Federal Issue


It looks to me like the Colorado Supreme Court relied on provisions of the Colorado state constitution when making its ruling. Generally, decisions by state supreme courts involving state constitutions are not subject to review by Federal courts unless they violate Federal law or the US Constitution. I'd expect this ruling to stand.

On the other hand, this ruling is unlikely to extend to other states - such as Texas - unless they have similar provisions in their state constitutions.

Posted by: Matt on December 1, 2003 6:35 PM