Of the Congress, by the Congress, for the Congress.

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - Greg Dobbs col­umn,

So, once and for all, was the elec­tion rigged? Yes. In­dis­putably. Not in the pres­i­den­tial race, de­spite the pres­i­dent-elect’s spe­cious as­ser­tions (although, with re­spect for the Found­ing Fa­thers, I’m done with the out­moded, dis­torted Elec­toral Col­lege). But it was “rigged” by par­typro­tected vot­ing maps in con­tests for Congress. Which mat­ters, big-time. A pres­i­dent’s suc­cess is sig­nif­i­cantly shaped by his con­gres­sional sup­port.

Look at Colorado. In the pres­i­den­tial vote, we went for Hil­lary Clin­ton by 5 per­cent­age points over Don­ald Trump (48.2 per­cent to 43.2 per­cent). We were dis­tinctly blue. Yet we re-elected four Repub­li­cans to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and only three Democrats. Which col­ors us red.

Or think about this: Go­ing into the elec­tion, the na­tional ap­proval rate for Congress was in the sin­gle dig­its; yet more than 90 per­cent of mem­bers who ran for re-elec­tion won. The ra­tio has been above 80 per­cent for 50 years.

The prob­lem? Con­gres­sional dis­tricts are de­signed to in­su­late the in­cum­bent. Colorado’s bound­aries are more eq­ui­tably drawn than most. We have a few where Repub­li­cans, Democrats and in­de­pen­dents are fairly evenly ap­por­tioned. But still, most dis­tricts in Colorado and across the na­tion are packed to pro­tect one party or the other.

Look at our 1st Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, which is mainly Den­ver. Demo­crat Diana DeGette has won this seat in 11 elec­tions now. A Repub­li­can in her lib­eral do­main doesn’t have a prayer. On the other hand, in Scott Tip­ton’s 3rd Dis­trict (which oc­cu­pies darned near the western half of the state) and Ken Buck’s 4th (which takes up the eastern third), Democrats are the ones with­out a prayer. They could hardly even fill a church.

Ev­ery 10 years there is a con­sti­tu­tion­ally re­quired cen­sus, which gives both par­ties a chance to re­draw dis­trict lines. Un­der the Vot­ing Rights Act, they can­not dis­en­fran­chise cit­i­zens be­cause of their race. They have to con­serve what are called “com­mu­ni­ties of in­ter­est,” and the cher­ished credo of “one per­son, one vote.” Bound­aries shouldn’t con­cen­trate all like-minded vot­ers in a sin­gle dis­trict be­cause they’d lose their voice ev­ery­where else, nor should they divvy them up into so many dis­tricts that their voice is di­luted. In short, it’s com­pli­cated.

But it’s also po­lit­i­cal. Lines are drawn by state leg­is­la­tures, or if there’s a dead­lock, by judges (which hap­pened the last two times here in Colorado), or by ap­pointed com­mis­sions (mem­bers here are ap­pointed by leg­isla­tive lead­ers, the state’s chief jus­tice, and the gov­er­nor). The process is nei­ther non-par­ti­san nor bi­par­ti­san. It is all-par­ti­san. And of­ten de­pends on who’s in charge.

Case in point: For a whole decade in California af­ter re­dis­trict­ing, only one con­gres­sional seat out of 53 changed hands.

Another case: I re­ported on re­dis­trict­ing in the 4th Dis­trict of Illi­nois, which is a heav­ily His­panic Chicago neigh­bor­hood. Ac­tu­ally, two neigh­bor­hoods. They were con­gres­sion­ally con­nected only by an el­e­vated in­ter­state high­way. Ev­ery­thing west of the in­ter­state was Illi­nois’ 6th Dis­trict. Ev­ery­thing east was the 7th. But the in­ter­state it­self was part of the 4th. Why? To link the neigh­bor­hoods and pre­serve the His­panic ma­jor­ity.

I also re­ported on Ari­zona’s 2nd Dis­trict, which made Chicago look nor­mal. As the Colorado River cas­caded through the Grand Canyon, 46 miles of it were set in the 2nd Dis­trict, even though the dry land on both sides was in the 1st. That’s how the small Na­tive Amer­i­can Hopi tribe, sur­rounded and out­num­bered by Nava­jos in the 1st Dis­trict, was linked to the 2nd.

Pol­i­tics is the driv­ing force. We can’t elim­i­nate it. But in Colorado and na­tion­wide when they re­draw the maps again at the end of this decade, if each party has an equal voice, we can mit­i­gate the rig­ging. Be­cause there’s some­thing wrong with the pic­ture when we think we’re choos­ing our rep­re­sen­ta­tives but, in ac­tual fact, they are choos­ing us.

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