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Terminating “gerrymander” ghouls with transparency: Massachusetts’s 2012 redistricting approach (Part II)

by Richard Clausi

In light of Massachusetts’ long and sordid history with the issue of gerrymandering, it came as no surprise when Democratic Representative Michael J. Moran predicted two months ago that certain residents would be skeptical of the state’s recently-released congressional redistricting plans for the 2012 election cycle. However, thanks to the Massachusetts Legislature’s commitment to governmental transparency over the last eight months, it appears that the majority of Bay State citizens are confident that fairness and equal voting rights will prevail next November.

Beginning in March of this year, the Massachusetts Legislature Redistricting Committee (the “MLRC”) was given the difficult task of creating nine new voting districts following the loss of one of the state’s congressional districts due to the 2010 Census results. In light of the state’s failed 2001 Redistricting Act (which was struck down, in part, due to its discriminatory effects on the voting rights of African-Americans), the MLRC took great steps over the spring and summer monthsto ensure that Massachusetts residents were given the opportunity to weigh in on how the district lines would be drawn for 2012. Through the use of multiple public meetings and an extremely informative and accessible website, MLRC Chairman Michael J. Moran and his colleagues hoped that their “open-forum” philosophy would promote the idea that the new 2012 congressional districts would be created with voting equality principles in mind (as opposed to mere incumbency protection in a Democratic-dominated state).  And for now, that philosophy seems to have accomplished its stated objective. Continue reading

Terminating “gerrymander” ghouls with transparency: Massachusetts’ 2012 redistricting approach

by Richard Clausi

Generally known as the birthplace of the term “gerrymandering,” Massachusetts is certainly no stranger to accusations of unequal divisions of the state’s electoral power.  From Governor Elbridge Gerry’s 1812 attempts to weaken the Federalist Party to House Speaker Tom Finneran’s 2001 alleged legislative efforts to diminish minority vote strength, historical reasons abound as to why vigilant Bay State minority citizens would be extremely wary of the state’s upcoming Congressional redistricting.  In order to quell these inevitable fears of vote dilution and limit “beast sightings” (see right) in the 2012 election cycle, however, Massachusetts lawmakers have armed themselves with an invisible weapon – transparency.

Although its population grew a modest 3.1 percent from 2001 to 2010, Massachusetts still lost one of its ten congressional districts once the U.S. Census Bureau finalized its statistics last December.  As a result, Massachusetts voters in 2012 will elect the fewest number of their representatives to the U.S. Congress (nine) since the late eighteenth century.  However, before a single representative from Massachusetts even enters the 113th Congress, the state’s Legislative Redistricting Committee must create new congressional district lines that adhere to legal doctrinal principles and (hopefully) community desires. Continue reading

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