The 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 three-judge panel.

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.