Representing the voice of voters matters to health care

by Ted J. Clarke, MD

Over the last several years, the issue of drawing maps to establish congressional or state legislative districts has received significant national and local media attention. Courts across the country are being asked to weigh in and are pushing for decisions to be made at the state level and outside of the judicial system. In Colorado, Amendments Y and Z will be put before voters in November to address this very problem.

You may be asking, “Why does this matter to COPIC and health care?”

Competition is a fundamental principal of America’s representative democracy. This well-studied assertion is rooted in the idea that competition motivates politicians to stay in tune with the needs of their communities and vote according to the concerns of their constituents. And health care is a primary issue that should represent the voices of all people – from the patients who seek care to the medical providers who face challenges in delivering this care.

Unfortunately, over time, legislative districts have been drawn to create “safe wins” by politicians who prefer to remove the threat of ideological difference to achieve their majorities. This process, known as gerrymandering, has created a growing number of non-competitive districts.

This is highly relevant in Colorado. The Colorado General Assembly is comprised of the 65-member House of Representatives, of which only three districts are considered competitive. Of the 35-member State Senate, only six are viewed as competitive. Even worse, at our federal congressional level in the last election, only one district was won with a margin of less than 15 points.   

So why does this matter? Health care in Colorado comes before the General Assembly every year. The ability to inform and perhaps influence our legislators on health care issues depends on the willingness of the legislator to understand the impact that a particular statute will have on the citizens within his or her district. Amendments Y and Z will improve the map-drawing process by establishing independent commissions to draw our political maps with an emphasis on fairness and better representation.

Amendment Y will reform the federal congressional redistricting process, while Amendment Z will reform our state legislative redistricting process. These are common-sense solutions that will strive to keep communities whole and districts more competitive. Competition will result in our legislators representing a broader community, and such representation will motivate our legislators to work across the aisle. This willingness to compromise will encourage solutions for bigger problems.

COPIC supports letting the voters choose their representatives rather than having our representatives choose their voters.

For the reasons mentioned above, COPIC has endorsed Amendments Y and Z. This fits within our broader legislative advocacy efforts, which focus on supporting ways that allow us to move forward to improve health care in Colorado. In our upcoming fall election, we hope you will consider supporting these amendments.


Categories: Communications, Colorado Medicine, Opinion/editorial