Getting the gerrymandering out of election districts

Author: John Pickerill
Publication: Puebol Chieftain
Date: 03/18/18

After the next census in 2020, Colorado once again will take on redrawing the state’s 35 Senate districts and 65 House districts. Unfortunately, we can expect that those in power will game the system, redrawing the lines to defend their majority at the expense of everyone else.

In Colorado, these lines are drawn by an 11-member Reapportionment Commission: Four legislative representatives (the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate), three executive (appointed by the governor) and four judicial (appointed by the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court). Since Chief Justice Nancy Rice originally was appointed by Democratic Gov. Roy Romer and with Democrat John Hickenlooper currently in the governor’s office, the math shows nine Democratic-leaning commissioners and two Republican-leaning. Oh sure, there’s a provision saying no more than six commissioners can be from the same political party. But we can only expect that the three executive and four judicial appointees will be sympathetic to the Democratic Party regardless of what their voter registrations show. The result will be the Colorado Democratic Party further cementing its power over the Colorado Legislature. And to my Republican friends, you’re fooling yourselves if you think the Republican Party would act any differently if the tables were turned. The system seems so hopelessly corruptible.

But what if there was a way out of this dilemma? A wise man once said: “If you want a new idea, read an old book.” What if we followed the model of the United States Constitution in how its House and Senate are set up? The U.S. House districts are redrawn every 10 years by population, but the U.S. Senate always stays the same. Each state gets two senators no matter how big or small the state and of course the borders are never redrawn. No gerrymandering is possible.

In Colorado we have 65 state representatives and 35 senators. There are 64 counties in Colorado. Why not change the Colorado House to 64 state representatives and assign one to each county? We would never have to redraw House districts again. No more gerrymandering. Oh, sure, you’d still have to redraw the state Senate districts, but it would be a big improvement over the system we have today.

It would have the added bonus of rebalancing power in the statehouse. More and more each year, big-city interests have dominated over rural interests. But this fixes that. With a House composed of one representative from each county, a small rural county has an equal vote in the General Assembly as big ones like Denver County, El Paso County, Arapahoe County or Jefferson County. So any proposed legislation would have to pass both the Senate (based on population) and the House (where each county gets one representative no matter how big or small the county). City interests and rural interests would finally be balanced.

We could finally have a system where one political party cannot completely dominate how the state election districts are redrawn. And we could actually have a system where every community has an equal voice in the statehouse.

John Pickerill recently relocated to Pueblo from Indiana, where he was a syndicated columnist, and now contributes to The Chieftain as a guest columnist. He advocates for individual liberties, free market economics, private property rights and constitutionally-limited government.