What would happen if one chamber of the Colorado Legislature was selected principally by geography rather than population — the same way the U.S. Senate includes two representatives from each state?
One result could be more even representation from across Colorado — and with it a stronger voice for rural areas of the state, including the Western Slope. At a time when there’s a massive divide between the Front Range and West Slope in terms of economic recovery, that could be helpful.
Those possibilities make it worthwhile to seriously consider a proposed measure that could appear on general election ballots in November.
The measure would amend the Colorado Constitution to change House district boundaries to coincide with county boundaries, giving each of the 64 counties in the state one representative. An effort is under way to collect the signatures of 100,000 registered voters to put the measure on the ballot.
The change models the U.S. Constitution, which apportions representation in the Senate to two senators from each of 50 states regardless of their populations. Wyoming has two Senators, the same as California. Representation in the U.S. House is apportioned among 435 voting members according to population, although each state has at least one representative. That means seven states have a single representative, while California has 53 representatives.
For now, the Colorado Constitution apportions representation in both the House and Senate by population. The difference in the proposed change is that the Colorado House would feature geographic representation rather than Senate for practical reasons. There are 65 members of the House and 64 counties. There are 35 members in the Senate.
The U.S. Constitution has worked well since the inception of the country in balancing the sometimes competing interests of rural and urban areas. A change in the Colorado Constitution could do the same thing.
We oppose most ballot measures for the simple reason they propose amendments to the State Constitution that have little, if anything, to do with the structure of governance. Rather, such measures afford an end run around any subsequent legislative efforts to reject or alter them because constitutional amendments require another election to change. Here, however, is a proposed constitutional amendment that would actually address a key component of the Constitution. It’s well worth considering.