Crestone Eagle, January 2004:
Colo. Supreme Court declares redistricting
plan ‘unconstitutional’ —Republicans appeal to Feds
by David Nicholas
In a 5-4 decision on December 1 the Colorado
Supreme Court overturned a redistricting plan the Republican-controlled
state legislature had passed earlier this year. Declaring
the plan unconstitutional, the court stated that under the
Colorado Constitution, districts can only be redrawn once
every decade, and that this had already been carried out in
2001 and completed in early 2002.
In passing a second redistricting plan, Republicans in the
state legislature embarked on a national Republican strategy.
This strategy is credited to Congressional House Majority
Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and was designed to redraw the
boundaries of federal House Districts in which Republicans
won by a close margin in the 2002 election and to make them
“safe” GOP seats for 2004. Colorado and Texas
were the two states central to this strategy, and both states
have shown to be quirky.
The Colorado Supreme Court decision is a feather in the cap
of state attorney general and San Luis Valley native, Ken
Salazar, who filed the suit in June.
Quick to respond to the decision, Crestone’s state
representative and House speaker Lola Spradley (R-Beulah)
claimed that because the 2001 redistricting plan had to be
finally decided by a state judge, the legislature had the
right to draw its own plan. Spradley neglected to say that
the reason why the state judge had to decide the 2001 redistricting
plan was because the legislature could not agree on a plan
the first time.
Now the battle moves to the US District Court, where state
Republicans are trying to get the decision overturned by a
Arguing that the 5-4 decision was along party lines, which
it was, Republicans hope to see if it violates legislators’
rights under the U.S. Constitution. Essentially, they are
saying the state court stole a power the U.S. Constitution
grants state legislators.
Democrats argue that in order to overturn a state court decision,
the case needs to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, a scenario
state republicans want to avoid. The idea of a long, drawn-out
national high profile case, where Republicans are seen to
redraw Congressional districts to their own advantage during
an election year, looks bad to say the least.
But a three-member federal judicial hearing will only hear
the case if there is only a federal question to be considered.
At the moment, the issue is argumentative. In the meantime
the electoral boundaries of 2001 are in place.
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