Jerry Kopel

In the continual power struggle for the soul of the legislature, there is "good" news for the front range except for Denver.

When the Colorado legislature is reapportioned again in 2001-02, the front range somewhat-narrow strip from Ft. Collins down to Pueblo will have 81 percent of the state's population, according to the state demographer, and presumably 81 percent of the 100 state legislators.

On a strictly "one-man, one-vote" apportionment, each house member will represent about 63,000 residents and each senator 117,100 residents based on an approximate 4,100,000 population in the census year 2000.

Denver County will have eight representatives and four senators and share a fifth senate seat with another county. Denver's major competitors, Jefferson and Arapahoe, will have 15 representatives and eight senators, sharing a ninth seat with another county. Adams County will have two senators, and four representatives. Adams will share an additional representative and senator with another county.

Douglas County, just a blip on the population screen in 1960, will have two representatives and one senator solely within the county borders.

This is for Denver a continued downward spiral. When the 1964 legislative districts were allocated following a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Denver had 18 representatives and nine senators. Adams, Jefferson, and Arapahoe combined had 12 house members and eight senators, which became 13 representatives and seven senators in the 1968 elections, with equalized district populations.

Adding house and senate members together tell the tale. In 1968: Denver, 27; Jefferson, Arapahoe, Adams, 20. In 2002: Denver, 12.5; Jefferson, Arapahoe, Adams, 30.5.

Much of the credit or blame for Denver's decline is laid squarely on Freda Poundstone, whose 1974 constitutional amendment limiting annexation effectively froze Denver's growth: 493,000 out of 1,754,000 people in 1960, and 520,000 out of 4,100,000 people in 2000.

Denver's main hope for increasing its population through additional housing lies in recovered land at Lowry Airbase, abandoned land at Stapleton Airport, and land recently annexed from Adams County, surrounding the new airport. It is possible Denver will drop no lower in numbers among the 100 state legislators after the year 2000.

One question Coloradans need to ask themselves before 2000: Is 100 the right number of legislators for our state? Colorado was NEVER required to have 65 in the House and 35 in the Senate. The original constitution provided for 49 in the House and 26 in the Senate, giving the legislature the right to add more, with the admonition not to exceed 100 in total. It wasn't until 1901 that a statute provided for 35 Senate and 65 House members for the 1902 election.

In 1902, we had 100 legislators for 539,700 residents. In 2002, we will have 100 legislators for 4,100,000 residents.

In 1962, Colorado actually amended its constitution, providing for 104 legislators, 39 in the Senate and 65 in the House for 1,754,000 residents. Of course, the increase was part of the plan to use factors other than equality in population for senate districts, and was a major concession to rural Colorado's desire for continued power.

Following the 1962 amendment, a statute adopted in 1963 for the 1964 election provided for senate districts ranging in size from 19,1983 in Las Animas County to 73,340 for a senate seat in El Paso County, and house seats ranging from 20,302 for Logan County to 35,018 for a house seat in Pueblo County.

The 1962 constitutional amendment had passed in every Colorado county, but on June 15, 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the entire amendment in language similar to that used May 20, 1996 regarding the 1992 homosexual amendment. The Supreme Court held that a civil right is a civil right under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, no matter how many people vote to disallow it.

Gov. Love called the legislature into special session and a new reapportionment law was adopted July 8, 1964, based on 65 House and 35 Senate seats. The U.S. District Court held the elections could proceed even though the house and senate districts were still somewhat unequal, but the court would "retain jurisdiction." A constitutional amendment was adopted in 1966 stressing equality in representation, keeping 100 legislators, and the court gave up jurisdiction.

Is it now time to add more seats to the Colorado legislature, or is everyone happy with one senator for every 117,100 residents and one house member for every 63,000 residents?


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