Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Colorado redistricting: Were they even serious?

As today is the final day of the 2011 session of the Colorado state legislature, it looks like there will not be a democratically-produced redistricting plan for the state's congressional districts. This means that a panel of judges will once again draw the state's districts. There's plenty of blame to go around, but I think it's fair to ask whether either party was very serious about this from the outset.

Recall that just a month ago, the state's redistricting committee produced nine redistricting maps. There are only ten people on the committee. Under the principles of collective action, the act of appointing a committee is a form of delegation, by which we empower a small group of people to make decisions on behalf of the whole, since it's far easier for a small group to reach an agreement than a large one. This committee did not do that job. Indeed, one gets the impression that everyone figured this would end up in the courts anyway. After all, a committee with even numbers of Republicans and Democrats would be unlikely to reach a consensus, as would a legislature with Republicans controlling one chamber and Democrats controlling the other.

One thing the committee might have done, if they wanted to keep redistricting power in the legislature's hands, would be the common bipartisan approach of making every incumbent's district safer. That's not necessarily great if you value competitive elections, but it would at least have had a strong chance of passage. Instead, they just punted to the judicial branch. They're certainly welcome to do that, but none of us should be thrilled to watch the most democratic branch of government abrogate one of its major powers.

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