DENVER — Two of the many statewide ballot measures Coloradans will vote on this election are Amendments Y and Z.
Amendment Y establishes an independent commission for congressional redistricting, and Amendment Z establishes an independent commission for state legislative redistricting. Both commissions would be responsible for amending and approving district maps that are drawn by nonpartisan legislative staff.
Redistricting is important to ensure that every Coloradan’s voice has equal weight in the state and with Congress in Washington D.C. “The way you do that is you divide up the geography of Colorado into equal population districts, so everyone has the same amount of power in regard to their represented electors,” said Wendy Underhill, the Director of the National Conference of State Legislature’s elections and redistricting team.
Next viewer Michele Alpert had a question about redistricting: “I am wondering if Colorado is a heavily gerrymandered state?”
The short answer is no, since Colorado is a swing state where no political party has a statewide majority and independents make up the largest voting block. Colorado certainly doesn't have the reputation for gerrymandering that other states, like North Carolina, for example, do.
“In the last four decades, that’s 1980 through 2010, at no time when the congressional maps were being considered did we have the House, the Senate and the Governorship in the same hands,” said Underhill. “There was always this divided government, and in all four of those efforts the plan didn’t get passed on time by the legislature and the courts had to step in.”
To ensure redistricting is fair, Underhill says it’s important the maps meet state criteria and the requirements under the state constitution.
Remarkably, there seems to be little criticism against Amendments Y and Z. Underhill attributes that to various stakeholder groups being taken into account during the process of creating the proposal.
The commissions formed by these amendments could play a big part after the 2020 census, when Colorado is likely to get another congressional district. This leads to the question of how the new district will be created.
“I think they are going to start with a clean slate,” Underhill said. “They're going to take our rectangular state and they're going to have to start over. So in terms of congressional districts instead of just editing them you might say, changing a line between them here and there, they're probably going to start with a clean slate because dividing by 8 is different than dividing by 7.”
As we discussed before, Colorado isn't actually a perfect rectangle, but you get the idea.
For more information on Amendment Y and Z check out our 2018 voting guide.
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