The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday by a 5-2 margin to
dissolve the new congressional districts drafted by the
Republican-controlled state legislature because congressional
districts can only be redrawn once every 10 years after the census.
Hooray to the court for stonewalling this disgusting display of
The plan to redraw the districts of states was the brainchild of
national GOP leaders to strengthen their narrow majority in the
House of Representatives. Judges drafted district lines after
partisan deadlock in the state legislature was unable to complete
Since Republicans now have a firm majority following the 2002
election, they redefined the districts as they saw fit. There is
actually a word in the English language to describe this
As defined by dictionary.com, gerrymandering, a verb, describes
the practice of dividing “voting districts so as to give unfair
advantage to one party in elections.” An underhanded political ploy
born in and nearly as old as the United States itself,
gerrymandering is an obscene word in politics and is also
The practice is named after Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry
(pronounced “Gary” although the political term is pronounced
“Jerry”) and his tactic of dividing Massachusetts voting districts
to give his party a distinct advantage in the 1812 election. The
latter half of the word is derived from “salamander,” which
described the odd shape of the district he created and the slimy
texture of the practice.
Gerrymandering was widely practiced throughout the United States
until the 1960s by not redrawing new districts after a census.
Since the population had until this time been gradually moving out
of rural and into urban areas, not redrawing districts had the
effect of diminishing the power of more liberal-minded urban
centers and giving increasingly unfair advantage to rural
According to Sandy Maisel’s political science text, “Parties and
Elections in America,” legislative district lines in Tennessee were
not redrawn for the entire first half of the 20th century, with the
result being that by the 1960s some legislators from the state had
100 times as many constituents as others.
The U.S Supreme Court eventually nullified this practice in the
’60s with two different rulings establishing a standard of “one
person, one vote.” This mandate obliged state governments to craft
districts with equal numbers of voters. While this ruling was
paramount in its rebalancing of the “proportionally” represented
half of Congress, it did very little to stop the practice of
State legislatures, usually dominated by conservatives wishing
to keep the scales tipped in their party’s favor, re-draw
congressional districts to minimize the oppositions voting
This is accomplished in one of two ways, the first by dividing
the opposition’s bases of power (cities or regions) among more than
one district to dilute the opposition’s influence.
The second method, more complicated and strategically more
insidious, is conceding oddly shaped territories and letting the
opposition win the district by what author Paul Allen Beck calls “a
large, wasteful majority.”
The courts are notably vague in rulings against both of these
practices, usually outlawing specific acts being questioned, but
almost always for reasons other than unfair and undemocratic
undertones of gerrymandering.
Being careful to tiptoe around the greedy rationale behind the
slanted construction of voting districts, courts usually find
technicalities to support their rulings instead of citing the equal
protection clause of the 14th amendment.
The Colorado Supreme Court decision is no different. The court
argued that the Colorado Constitution specifically states
redistricting can only happen once every 10 years with data
collected from the census.
The court opinion did, however, include a chastisement of the
Colorado Assembly. It said state representatives and consequently
the representative part of government would be damaged by a
legislature that redefined congressional districts whenever it felt
A constant shifting of districts would mean a constant shifting
of constituencies, which would undermine the very ideals of
representative government and, to a lesser extent, democratic
In Texas state assembly the Democratic minority fled the state
to keep a similar redistricting proposal from being voted into law.
Tom Craddick, speaker of the Texas State House, tried
unsuccessfully to have federal authorities arrested and return them
to Austin so the vote could happen.
They were welcome to vote no. The only purpose of their voting
was to maintain quorum. Only in Texas could voting one’s mind at
gunpoint be considered democracy.
Colorado avoided stacking the deck of democracy and set some
precedent for other states to use when fighting gerrymandering with
Now all that Democrats in Texas need is more Democrats.