- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

DENVER — The Colorado legislature gave final approval yesterday to a bill that would jettison a court-ordered plan and redraw the state’s congressional districts to favor Republicans, an unprecedented move that could have enormous consequences for House elections.Over the angry protests of Democrats, the Republican-controlled state House voted yesterday to dump the current congressional map, which was chosen by a District Court judge after the 2000 legislature failed to agree on a plan.That map, which was used as the grid for the 2002 congressional elections, would be replaced with a plan moving Republican areas into the competitive 7th District in time for the 2004 elections.The map now goes to Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who has not said whether he will sign the bill, approved on the last day of the legislative session. Democrats have vowed to take the issue to court if Mr. Owens signs the bill.But Republicans insist they have a strong legal case, noting that the state constitution mandates that the legislature approve a district map every 10 years. Having a judge select the map after the legislature becomes gridlocked isn’t the same thing, they said.Colorado Republicans were furious after the Democrats, who controlled the state Senate by one vote from 2000 to 2002, refused to permit a vote on any redistricting plan. As a result, the legislature was forced to refer the matter to Denver District Court Judge John Coughlin, who chose from several maps the one most beneficial to Democrats.”The Democrats, by their manipulation, forced this into the courts, thinking they could get a better deal,” said Ted Halaby, state Republican Party chairman. “The Republican position is that this can be legislated once every 10 years. This has not been legislated once this decade.”While the Colorado law would be the first of its kind nationwide, it is not the only such proposal in play. Texas Republicans are mounting a similar effort in Austin, prompting Democrats to accuse the White House of orchestrating a national strategy aimed at undermining the redistricting process.”It’s very clear that this is a strategy being pursued by national Republicans to steal seats,” Chris Gates, Colorado Democratic Party chairman, said yesterday on a Denver radio show.”Our Democratic legislators have been told by Republican legislators that they’ve received calls from [White House strategist] Karl Rove … telling them to stay in line even though they have reservations,” he said.

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