Colorado Republicans’ redistricting challenge dealt final blow
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
DENVER (AP) ” The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday put an end to years of litigation over Colorado’s congressional districts with a ruling that leaves the current map in place.
The high court ruled unanimously that four voters who had challenged the map were not entitled to sue in an effort to overturn the current map, drawn up by a judge when lawmakers deadlocked, and replace it with one passed by a Republican-controlled state Legislature.
The ruling eliminates the final legal challenge to the map that has been in use since the 2002 elections.
“We’re disappointed,” said Denver attorney John Zakhem, who represented the voters. “It looks to me the court felt this was more a political question than a judicial question and exercised its jurisdictional reservations by finding my clients had no standing. We’re very happy this case is over and we can move on to other things.”
Officials of the state Republican and Democratic parties did not immediately return calls.
“What it means for voters is the congressional map we’ve used since 2002 remains in place at least through 2010, the next Census,” said attorney David Fine, who represented Colorado Democrats in related litigation.
Because of the state’s rapid population growth in the 1990s, the 2000 Census gave Colorado a seventh congressional seat. In 2001, when control of the Legislature was split between Republicans and Democrats, lawmakers failed to agree on redistricting in time for the 2002 election, so a state judge drew a redistricting plan that put the new 7th Congressional District in Denver’s northern suburbs. That district is divided almost equally among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
Republicans won five congressional seats under the judge-drawn map in 2002. They now hold three of the state’s seven House seats after 7th District Rep. Bob Beauprez, a Republican, stepped down to run for governor and Democrat Ed Perlmutter won the seat.
In 2003, after Republicans regained control of both chambers of the Legislature, lawmakers pushed through a GOP-friendly redistricting map in the final days of the legislative session, prompting a lawsuit by then-Attorney General Ken Salazar challenging the Republican plan.
In that case, Colorado’s Supreme Court rejected the GOP map, saying the state Constitution restricts congressional redistricting to once per decade and that the Legislature’s plan was the second plan.
In the case decided Monday, three Republican voters and a former Democratic state legislator who often sided with the GOP argued the court-imposed map violated a right of citizens under the U.S. Constitution to vote for congressional candidates in districts created by state legislatures.
A panel of federal judges last August dismissed the lawsuit, saying the same issue had already been decided in the earlier lawsuit.
In their unsigned opinion, the Supreme Court justices said the only injury the voters alleged was that the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause had not been followed.
“This injury is precisely the kind of undifferentiated, generalized grievance about the conduct of government that we have refused to countenance in the past,” the ruling said.
Zakhem said if the Supreme Court had ruled in his clients’ favor, it could have ordered two potential remedies. The court could have invalidated the existing map and called on the Democratic-controlled Legislature to pass new boundaries, he said.
A less-likely alternative would have been for the justices to replace the current map with the Republican map the Legislature approved in 2003, but Zakhem said that could have required more litigation to answer lingering questions from previous court action.
The ruling Monday was the Supreme Court’s latest involving congressional redistricting. In a messy redistricting fight in Texas, justices said last year the U.S. Constitution does not bar states from redrawing political lines more than once per decade.
That decision grew out of a court review of a Texas redistricting plan orchestrated in 2003 by Tom DeLay, who was the Republican congressional leader at the time.
The Colorado case is Lance v. Dennis, 06-641.
On the Net:
Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov
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