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Non-Politician Leads Legislation To Ask Voters To Change Redistricting

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)- Kent Thiry is not a politician or even partisan, but he has lead one of the biggest changes ever in Colorado politics.

(credit: CBS)

Thiry has convinced hardcore Republicans and Democrats to go along with a plan to blow-up redistricting -- the process for how congressional and legislative districts are drawn in the state.

"Over 12 weeks and 100s of hours of negotiating, brainstorming and building consensus, we did it," Thiry said.

(credit: CBS)

Redistricting can determine which party represents Colorado in Congress or controls the state legislature for the next decade because its only done after each census.

Right now, lawmakers draw the districts.

"We essentially ask our elected officials to pick their own voters," said Thiry. "As a result, they tend to pick boundaries that work for them. It means that out of our 65 House seats, 90 percent are locked and loaded for one party or the other. This in a state where there are an equal number of D's and R's, and there are more Independents than either D's or R's. And so the notion that there are only 10 percent that are truly competitive, that actually give voters a choice, is clearly a man-made abomination."

CBS4's Shaun Boyd interviews Kent Thiry. (credit: CBS)

Tired of seeing lawmakers unwilling to compromise on issues like immigration or gun control because their districts are drawn overwhelmingly red or blue, Thiry worked with both parties to draw up legislation that puts a commission made up of an equal number of Republicans, Democrats and Independents in charge of drawing the maps and making it illegal to draw districts to the competitive advantage of one party or the other.

The first six members of the commission would be chosen by lottery and the other six by a panel of retired judges. Their meetings and maps would all be done in public, no backroom dealing.

The legislation passed the House and Senate unanimously and now goes to voters in November.

(credit: CBS)

Thiry -- who already got voters to approve open primaries -- is heading up the campaign.

"We have 1.4 million independent voters in Colorado that have never been able to vote in primaries until now and were not represented in the redistricting process. If we win, they will be," he said.

There are two ballot measures in November because there will be two commissions - one to draw congressional district lines and the other state legislative district lines.

The next redistricting will happen after the 2020 census.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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