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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AMENDMENTS Y AND Z BY MIKE LOPEZ
The issue of gerrymandering is one that affects nearly every aspect of our election process and creates a situation in which your individual vote may not matter in the grand scheme of things. In a previous article, the Libertarian party outlined how the election process in the United States works, so that you have a firm grasp on the gravity of the issues that are discussed in amendments Y and Z. The Libertarian party believes that you deserve to make an informed decision. Amendments Y and Z are weak attempts to show the people of Colorado that the state legislature has an interest in making the voting process more fair, while completely excluding third party representation. The issue of gerrymandering is indeed serious and must be addressed, however, amendments Y and Z are very poorly written and will likely cause more harm, not less, to the people of Colorado.
Amendments Y and Z would take the responsibility of drawing congressional, state senatorial, and representative district lines away from the state legislature and give that responsibility to two different commissions; each consisting of 12 unelected commissioners. The Libertarian party of Colorado believes that you deserve a complete understanding of how these amendments will work. As such, these are they highlights of how the commissions will be formed, if the amendments pass as written:
1. The commissioners are to be selected from a pool of applicants. (Where or how one applies to be a commissioner is not specified.)
2. Applicants are to submit their applications to an unspecified “nonpartisan” staff for review.
3. All applications are to be posted to the general assembly’s website for public viewing.
4. The chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court must appoint three or six (neither amendment prohibits the same three judges from overseeing both selection processes) retired judges, and no judge may associate with the same political party as another judge.
5. A total of 2,100 applications—1,050 for each commission—are selected randomly by the judges at a public hearing.
6. The judges then have 14 days to review 1,050 applicants for each commission and conduct one or more public hearings before narrowing the number of applicants down to 150 for each.
7. No later than February 1st, the judges must randomly select a total of six applicants to serve on each commission.
8. The majority and minority leaders of both the Senate and House must then hand select ten applicants who are affiliated with the state’s first and second largest parties to be sent before the panel of judges for each commission.
9. The judges are then to select one applicant from each of the legislative leader’s pools to serve on each commission, as well as two more who are not affiliated with ANY political party for each commission.
One “minor” adjustment is made in the text of amendment Z; it strikes the Constitutional requirement that each district be roughly equal in population. It remains to be seen how this would affect elections, though it has the potential to make elections more competitive, along with the bizarre and unlikely possibility of a single small town having a representative at the state level.
The selection process assumes, right or wrong, that there are more than 1,200 people who are registered with that state’s two major parties, not politically involved, and who wish to serve on the commission as well as 900 independent, politically inactive voters as required. It requires that three retired, likely senior, citizens properly review a minimum of 1,050 applications within two weeks. The amendments also allow the major political parties to hand select their own commissioners, which can perpetuate gerrymandering. Aside from all of these flaws, the selection process is fairly straightforward compared to the actual work of the commission.
The way in which the commissions conduct their duty is written more poorly than the selection process. The commissions are to develop their own rules relating, but not limited to, record maintenance, public meetings, the hearing process and review of maps. The commissions are supposed to inform the public of their plans 72 hours in advance of their adoption, though the commission can waive the requirement with a unanimous vote. The commissioners may also be lobbied for the adoption or rejection of a specific map, the lobbyists merely need to keep records with the secretary of state. There is also no limit—other than “reasonable”—to compensation for the commissioners, the judges, and the supporting staff of the commission.
The Libertarian party believes that neither of these amendments are written well enough to be executed smoothly, should they pass. In addition, neither amendment allows for a third party to be represented on either commission. The amendments perpetuate the repression of those disenfranchised by the status quo of the two major parties, by specifically excluding a third party in the commissions. For all of the reasons outlined, the Libertarian party of Colorado urges voters to vote “no” on amendments Y and Z, and offers the following solution to representing third parties on any properly proposed commission in the future:
1. The state’s third largest party will gain one commissioner at 5% of total voter registration, which will be taken from those seats issued for non affiliates.
2. At 10% registration, the state’s third largest party will take one seat from the state’s largest party and one seat from the state’s second largest party. Unaffiliated seats will return to four.
3. At 20% registration, the state’s first, second, and third largest parties will have 3 seats on the commission, and the unaffiliates will also have 3 seats.
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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Lance Cayko at 303.775.7406 or email at CommunicationsDirector@LPColorado.org.