Wednesday Open Thread

“Parents wonder why the streams are bitter, when they themselves have poisoned the fountain.”

–John Locke

Slow Down! Initiative 55 (Redistricting) Is a Rough Draft, Not a Real Policy Fix

Pump the brakes!

Pump the brakes!

Redistricting. Reapportionment. Gerrymandering. Big words that create big problems.

There is no political or policy issue that is not affected by the re-drawing of legislative and congressional districts every 10 years. A truly representative democracy requires that we regularly adjust local “boundaries” in an effort to create a responsive and responsible government that reflects our ever-changing demographics.

In an ideal world, these boundaries would always be drawn in a competitively-balanced manner so as not to give an unfair advantage to any particular community, interest group, or political party. In the real world, this is akin to trying to take “politics” out of politics.

A new group of current and former lawmakers is pushing for a change to Colorado’s political map-making process. The proposal – known already as Initiative 55 – has some bipartisan support but is largely backed by Republicans such as former Governor Bill Owens (R), former Secretaries of State Donetta Davidson (R) and Gigi Dennis (R), and former House Speaker Frank McNulty (R). In fact, Initiative 55 should look pretty familiar to partisan Republicans: Much of the map-drawing requirements in Initiative 55 is comparable to a Republican redistricting attempt in 2004 that was ultimately repealed in 2010.

The primary talking point for the Initiative 55 group is that their proposal will hand over the map-making process to “nonpartisan experts,” which (in theory) would put a stop to gerrymandering. This smells like a good idea that has gained traction in other parts of the country, but what are the other ingredients that make up this political sausage? We don’t disagree that our current map-making process needs to be adjusted, but as we read through the draft language for “Initiative 55,” we found ourselves pumping the policy brakes on numerous occasions. For example:

♦ Initiative 55 would essentially make it impossible for minority groups to increase their voting power. In fact, the language specifically prohibits crafting district boundaries “for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group.” This is one of several sections that would appear to be unconstitutional from the start.

Initiative 55 upends some critical redistricting criteria in a way that actually makes it more difficult to craft competitive boundaries. The draft language outlines a few specific redistricting factors in a very specific order; the result is that “competitiveness” and “communities of interest” would become the least important considerations in redistricting. Initiative 55 supporters say that map makers would be “required” to draw competitive seats under this plan, but it would appear that they missed their own fine print.

♦ Metropolitan counties with large populations will still be carved up into several districts, but under Initiative 55, counties can be split even if they divide minority communities or other communities of interest.

♦ One of the stranger quirks in the language of Initiative 55 is related to the tie-breaking process for the Redistricting Commission. If the Commission cannot agree on a particular map and becomes deadlocked, the default solution is to go back to the first map presented by Commission staff – no matter how flawed or misguided it may have been. If the Commission can’t agree on later versions of a redistricting map, the law would require that they formally submit the first draft to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.

♦ Here’s another weird quirk: In the event that staff “is unable to present initial plans to the commission,” Initiative 55 would allow the staff to draw district lines and directly present them to the Supreme Court for approval (Initiative 55 doesn’t explain what kind of “event” would prohibit staff from meeting with the Commission). In other words, a handful of unnamed “staff members” could somehow skip this entire process and do the map-drawing by themselves. 

Colorado could certainly benefit from a change to its reapportionment and redistricting process, and there may be some seeds of thought in the draft language of Initiative 55 that should be examined further. As it stands currently, however, Initiative 55 is more of a rough first draft than a carefully-considered policy proposal. When you skip the details and rush past the fine print, you risk enacting a policy that ends up doing the opposite of whatever was intended.

Colorado can absolutely lead the way and show the rest of the country how best to deal with re-drawing legislative boundaries…but let’s slow down and get this right, first.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Nov. 24)

MoreSmarter-ThanksgivingWe’re planning out our tryptophan coma dreams early this year. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).


► Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is in Colorado today, making stops in Denver and Boulder as part of a trip that involves both raising money and “mobilizing” Colorado Democrats.

► But if you attend a Donald Trump rally, you may be taking your life into your own hands.

► Speaking of Trump, he may be in danger of losing his so-far lead in the upcoming Iowa caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz. Might Iowa change the course of Cruz’s also-ran campaign, or make itself irrelevant? Cruz says it’s the former, with feeling.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Hillary Clinton in Colorado Today

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is spending some time in Colorado today. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

The former secretary of state will speak at 11:30 a.m. at the Boulder Theatre in downtown Boulder and travel later in the day to Denver for a 3:15 p.m. event at Manual High School. The trip also includes a private fundraising event at the Boulder home of Mo Siegel, one of the founders of Celestial Seasonings.

Clinton’s visit to Colorado is the second in four months and comes weeks after rival Bernie Sanders drew an estimated 9,000 to a rally in Boulder. In June, the Vermont senator brought nearly 5,000 people to the University of Denver.

The Clinton campaign said the two events Tuesday are designed to mobilize Democratic activists ahead of the state’s March 1 caucuses. The campaign said Clinton will “discuss the issues that keep Coloradans up at night” but declined to offer specific. Her remarks at an  August event in Denver focused on the economy and the protection of women’s rights.


Rep. Don “Quixote” Coram Promises to Fix Non-Existent Voter Fraud in Colorado

Prepare thyself for tilting, dastardly windmill!

Prepare thyself, windmill, for Don “Quixote” Coram comes to do some tilting.

Montrose Republican Rep. Don “Quixote” Coram wants to require voters to present identification at polling places, and as he told the Montrose Daily Press last week, Don’s will…will be done.

One way or another, a measure to require voter ID at the polls will be on the 2016 ballot, Rep. Don Coram said.

Coram, a Montrose Republican, announced Friday during a Montrose Chamber legislative preview that he intends to introduce a concurrent resolution in the Colorado House that would require identification from those voting in person on election days…

Vote ID laws have been criticized by the New York Times and others as deliberate attempts to discourage or prevent voting among people who do not have money or means to obtain the necessary identification; a sort of backdoor poll tax.

“It’s a matter of safety,” contended Coram. “There are a few cases where (ballot) is returned to the county clerk because there is no person by that name at that address,” Coram said. “You can come in with a utility bill and say you want to vote.”

Voter fraud is not prevalent, he said. “But how much is enough?” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Don "Quixote" Coram (R-Montrose)

Rep. Don “Quixote” Coram (R-Montrose)

Boy, Rep. Coram sure sounds excited about combating voter fraud. He sounds so intent, in fact, that we almost hate to mention that there is still no evidence that voter fraud exists in Colorado AT ALL. Let’s revisit this November 11 story from the Aurora Sentinel:

An Arapahoe County jury last week acquitted a man of voter fraud charges, bringing to a close a 2013 voter fraud investigation that identified more than 100 suspects but produced just one conviction…

The two men were among four charged in 2013 as part of a large-scale and controversial voter fraud investigation launched by former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Gessler had identified more than 100 people he said illegally voted, but the four charged in Arapahoe County were the only people in Colorado to face charges.

In early 2011, newly-elected Secretary of State Scott Gessler testified in Congress that some 16,270 people were illegally registered to vote in Colorado, and some 5,000 of them actually cast ballots in the 2010 election. Gessler wasn’t exactly “Captain Credibility” by that point anyway, but his out-of-left-field numbers of illegal voter registrations immediately raised eyebrows among politicos in Colorado and Washington D.C.

A few months later, Gessler inexplicably reduced that number by a significant amount, claiming to have narrowed the list down to 155 non-citizen voters. Then, in 2012, Gessler sent letters to 4,000 Coloradans he suspected to be illegally-registered to vote. Fast-forward back to November 2015, and you find that “1” is indeed the loneliest of numbers.

To recap, here’s the progression of the number of “illegal voters” in Colorado, per Gessler and his magic 8-ball:

16,270 ⇒  5,000  ⇒  155  ⇒  4,000  ⇒  4   ⇒  2   ⇒ 1

Ever since Gessler first made his bold accusations in 2011, County Clerks from across Colorado have repeatedly denied that there were any known cases of voter fraud in their counties. Ever. At all. Undeterred, Gessler convinced his patsy, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, to press forward with criminal charges that resulted in finding one person who was (knowingly) illegally registered to vote but likely never actually cast a ballot. Thank goodness we put a stop to that!

Colorado has spent an absurd amount of time and money over the last couple of years in an effort to discover this illegally-voting Bigfoot character, and at every turn Colorado has uncovered a whole bucket full of nothin’. Rep. Coram isn’t going to go out on another limb by throwing out new numbers attributed to illegal voters, so instead, he just says, “how much is enough?”

We were thinking the exact same thing, Rep. Coram. How much is enough indeed?

State Sen. Crowder sides with Hickenlooper on Syrian refugee policy

Sen. Larry Crowder.

Sen. Larry Crowder.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) has sided with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in arguing that Colorado should still welcome Syrian refugees to the state, despite calls by some state lawmakers to ban them from coming here.

Rocky Mountain Community Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports:

Republican State Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa says Colorado and the country should not change the refugee resettlement program in the wake of the Paris attacks.

He was one of 10 Republicans not to sign the letter [asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to block Syrian refugees from coming to the state]. He says politicians are reacting with fear.

“When you talk about people who drop everything that they had and run for their lives, what we need to do is start realizing what our responsibility as a world citizen is,” [said Crowder].

Listen here. 

Birkeland mentioned that Hickenlooper supports the existing two-year vetting process for Syrian refugees.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Nov. 23)

MoreSmarter-ThanksgivingNope, we can’t spell Osweiler without looking it up first; perhaps next week. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).


► Colorado Attorney General Cynthia “Sues-a-Lot” Coffman has asked the Colorado Supreme Court to dismiss a complaint from Gov. John Hickenlooper over lawsuits the Governor says have been filed without his approval.

Hickenlooper petitioned the state Supreme Court on Nov. 4 after he complained that Coffman should not have joined about two dozen other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency over new air pollution rules without his authorization.

Coffman said the rules are an illegal overreach. The governor supports the rules and is trying to implement them.

Hickenlooper is asking the court to force Coffman to withdraw lawsuits against the federal government that were filed without his permission, including one in Wyoming over fracking rules, one in North Dakota over clean water rules and the latest in Washington, D.C., over the EPA’s air pollution rules.

If the Governor does not back down, Coffman is threatening to force Colorado into a lawsuit against the entire galaxy.


► We’re still in 2015, but the 2016 Presidential election has been strikingly fact-free, as Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix”:

Candidates have always done their best to bend numbers, statistics and stories to make themselves look as good — or as not-bad — as possible. But, there was almost always a line that wasn’t crossed in years past, a sort of even-partisans-can-agree-on-this standard.

Now, thanks in large part to Donald Trump’s candidacy, that line has been smudged out of existence. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous quote that “you are entitled to your own opinion…but you are not entitled to your own facts” is no longer operative in this election. That is to the detriment of not only the people running for president in 2016 but to all of us.

Trump’s latest foray into the fiction zone came on Saturday when he told a group of supporters that he watched as “thousands of people were cheering” in Jersey City, New Jersey when the World Trade Center towers collapsed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On Sunday, Trump called into ABC’s “This Week” and got into a back and forth with moderator George Stephanopoulos over that claim. The exchange is long but worth printing in full.

You’ll have to click the link to read Trump’s bizarre claims, but it’s definitely worth exercising your mouse finger.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Radio Host Filing Lawsuits Because of…Wait, What?

(Raise your hand if you are surprised that Dan Caplis is involved — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

After using his radio show, a newspaper column, and misinformation to whip up anger against a peaceful East High School protest last year, KNUS radio host Dan Caplis is now apparently suing the Denver Public Schools, city officials, DPS teachers/administrators, or possibly even students, because he thinks they are somehow responsible for the random and tragic injury to a Denver police officer that occurred after the East-High demonstration.

The issue came up recently, when KNUS host Craig Silverman told Caplis he wasn’t sure if they could discuss the issue on air, presumably due to a lawsuit. And a frequent KNUS listener told me he’s heard Caplis mention that he’s representing the police officer.


Weekend Open Thread

“I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.”

–Anne Frank

Chaps’ Guest: Lazy White Women Won’t Make Babies, So Paris

Right Wing Watch, excerpting GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s Pray In Jesus Name show Wednesday on the Paris terror attacks:

William Murray, chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition and founder of the Government Is Not God PAC, was a guest on Gordon Klingenschmitt’s “Pray In Jesus Name” program today, where he was asked to share his “expertise” on last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

As Murray explained it, such attacks should not come as a surprise since France and Europe as a whole have been “overrun” by Muslims because European women are too selfish and short-sighted to dedicate their lives to having children.

You can watch Bill Murray–not that Bill Murray, obviously–in the clip above explain his theory about the failure of white European women to do their moral duty and pop out dozens of Christian babies Duggar Family-style, which has resulted in a low birthrate in Western European nations–necessitating a self-imposed Islamization of Europe so white folks don’t have to make babies:

They want to play, they want to have fun, they want to go on long vacations, they want to have money, they want to have cars, they want to have nice apartments, they’re secularly motivated, the church is almost dead in Europe … They don’t believe that the propagation of the species is the most important thing that they’re here for… [Pols emphasis]

To summarize, sex machine Bill Murray–not that Bill Murray:


Says the Paris attacks happened because European women don’t realize “the most important thing that they’re here for” is “the propagation of the species.” And the hunka-hunka of burning love we call Dr. Chaps, who we have the unfortunate duty of reminding you is an elected Colorado state representative:


Wanted you ladies to know.

If we’ve now halted any procreation among our readers on this chilly Friday evening, we apologize.

Six Degrees of Benghazi, with Rep. Ken Buck

Hee-hee. I get to press buttons.

Hee-hee. I get to press buttons.

Via Talking Points Memo, here’s Colorado Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) trying to connect the wrong dots:

Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck on Thursday blamed the President’s handling of the 2011 terrorist attack in Benghazi for Americans’ distrust of Syrian refugees today.

In a back-and-forth with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez, Buck argued that no one should be surprised Americans are deeply concerned about refugees considering the way Obama handled the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks.

“One of the reasons Americans are distrustful at this point. We have a president who after the murder of an ambassador in Benghazi and the murder of three heroes in Benghazi…told the American people that the attack was the result of a video,” Buck said. “You have a secretary of state that immediately identified that it was not the result of a video — that it was that it was a result of a well-planned attack.”

We suppose it’s unavoidable that some Republican politicians will reflexively scream “Benghazi!” whenever they are discussing any foreign policy matter, but come on, Ken! This is silly even for you.

Steve Benen of MSNBC tries to figure out what Buck is trying to say here. It’s complicated:

Initially, I took this to mean that Buck was conflating terrorists in Libya and refugees from Syria, but that’s not it.

Rather, the Colorado Republican was endorsing far-right Benghazi conspiracy theories, which leads him to believe the White House covered up some imaginary scandal, which then leads him to believe Americans don’t trust the administration, which then leads Buck to believe Benghazi is indirectly responsible for creating public hostility towards refugees from an entirely different country.

Could you connect the Paris terrorist attacks to Benghazi in six steps or less? Probably. Could you connect the Paris attacks to actor Kevin Bacon in six steps or less? Probably.

Maybe it’s Kevin Bacon’s fault!

(h/t to DawnPatrol)

Who’s the Next Republican Candidate to Exit the Race for President?

votebuttonThe clickbait muppet, Bobby Jindal, finally withdrew from the Republican Presidential field this week, but who’s next?

Click after the jump to cast your vote on the question: Who will be the next Republican Candidate to drop out of the race for President?

Please remember our polling etiquette here at Colorado Pols. We want to know what you think will happen next, not what you might prefer…


Get More Smarter on Friday (Nov. 20)

MoreSmarter-RainTo the five people out there who haven’t already left for Thanksgiving Break, enjoy your news! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).


► As Peter Marcus reports for the Durango Herald, the long-awaited, first-ever, Colorado statewide water plan was unveiled on Thursday. There was much rejoicing:

Surrounded by a large, jovial crowd of Colorado water stakeholders, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday unveiled a final plan that the administration hopes will map the future of water across the state.

Colorado’s Water Plan aims at achieving 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water conservation by 2050. To get there, the plan encourages a shift in philosophy.

“Now is the time when you rethink how you can be more efficient in the water you use,” Hickenlooper said during a ceremony at History Colorado, which was chosen as a location to highlight the historical significance of the water plan.

“I do think the cultural shift is underway, and I think those conversations, and everyone looking at how they can use water more efficiently, is critical,” the governor said.

We’ll stop there before we get too far into the policy weeds; it is Friday, after all.

► Governor John Hickenlooper likes the federal Clean Power Plan emissions standards. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman does not, so she added Colorado to a lawsuit presented by several states. John Frank of the Denver Post catches us up on the latest in this legal and political battle:

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is facing sharp questions from Democratic lawmakers about the costs and legal conflicts related to her decision to  join a lawsuit to block the Obama administration’s tougher air quality standards.

Coffman, a Republican, brushed aside the concerns at a legislative hearing Thursday, defending her  authority to challenge the Clean Power Plan emission rules.

Gov. John Hickenlooper  disputes Coffman’s legal standing and recently asked the Colorado Supreme Court to intervene and declare that he “has ultimate authority” on whether to sue the federal government. The attorney general’s office will respond with a legal brief Friday.

The constitution, Coffman said, gives her “common law” authority to represent Colorado residents that goes beyond the limited powers outlined in state law. [Pols emphasis]

“Common law?” That sounds like a fancy way of saying, I only pay attention to laws that benefit my goals. That would be par for the course for Coffman.



Get even more smarter after the jump…