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Constituency recast bids spread in US

Washington, May 17: The bizarre political divisions in America over delimitation of constituencies are spreading.

Close on the heels of an escape by Texas legislators to neighbouring Oklahoma to avoid arrest over a delimitation Bill, the attorney general of Colorado has filed an unprecedented case in the state supreme court against the very government he represents.

Ken Salazar, the attorney general, contends that Colorado legislature has no authority to redraw the state’s electoral map at this time.

The Republican-controlled legislature on Wednesday hurriedly pushed through a Bill which would relocate voters in one Congressional district where the Republicans won last November by a slender margin of 121 votes.

Under their new plan, which Republican governor Bill Owens signed yesterday, Republicans will have a majority of about 29,000 in that seat when fresh elections are held to the US House of Representatives in November next year. The figure is based on voter registration records under which voters state their party affiliation when they enrol to vote.

The Bill will similarly raise the number of Republican voters in another seat now held by Republican Congressman Scott McInnis. He is likely to retire, in which case, the seat will no longer be a sure one for his party without the delimitation.

Salazar said he had taken unusual step of suing his own clients because “my duty to the people of Colorado is to protect their rights under our state constitution and their right to vote”. Salazar is a Democrat.

Colorado’s Congressional seats were redrawn two years ago by a court after its House of Representatives and Senate failed to agree on the parameters for delimitation.

The Republicans then controlled the state House while the Democrats had a majority in the state Senate. The Republicans now have majority in both houses and want to steamroll their electoral map in time for national elections next year.

Salazar said: “The Colorado Constitution permits only one redistricting per decade”. He said in his petition to the supreme court that the mandatory redistricting of Colorado was completed in 2002 and that it cannot be done again until 2012.

Because, the appellant is Salazar — who would normally have defended Donetta Davidson, Colorado’s top election official in this suit — she has been forced to engage a private attorney for her defence.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers in Texas who ran away to neighbouring Oklahoma to defeat a similar delimitation plan by Republicans in their state returned home during the weekend. Their effort was successful. In their absence, the Texas legislature had no quorum to pass the Bill, which lapsed on Thursday under legislative rules.

Ecstatic supporters welcomed the lawmakers home with signs that read: “Welcome home, Texas heroes”. Jim Dunnum, the group’s leader, said: “We have weathered some troopers, we have weathered a tornado... No matter what happens, democracy won”.

It may, however, be too early for the Democrats to smile. Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas and successor to George W Bush, is considering calling a special of the state legislature to consider the new electoral map.

Faced with severe criticism, Democrats in New Mexico, who control both the legislature and the governor’s office, have given up plans to delimit the state’s Congressional districts.

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