HB 661Background and Procedural Information
On January 10, 2007 Massachusetts Republican Representative Bradley Jones Jr. introduced Massachusetts House Bill 661 (MA H.B. 661). As of June 6, 2008 the bill has been called for consideration in a joint session, but no new action has occurred since May 3, 2007. This bill would create a seven member independent redistricting commission that would have responsibility for altering the districts of representatives, senators, and councilors.
Under the proposed legislation, are single-member districts a requirement or otherwise implied?
Single-member districts are a requirement.
Does the proposed legislation provide for Voting Rights Act compliance (e.g. can the commission use voter history information)?
Yes. The language of the bill states “The Commission shall not consider residential address, party affiliation, or partisan voting history of any individual or groups of individuals, except to the extent necessary to avoid dilution of voting strength based on race, ethnicity or language minority status.”
Under the proposed legislation, how is the commission formed?
First the governor, attorney general, and secretary of the commonwealth will each appoint one member. The governor will appoint a dean or professor of law, political science, government from a university located within Massachusetts, the attorney general will appoint a retired judge who lives in Massachusetts, and the secretary will appoint an expert in civil rights law who lives in Massachusetts. These three members will choose the next four members by selecting one person from four pools of three nominees. The house speaker, house minority leader, senate president, and senate minority leader will each nominate three people each to constitute a candidate pool. The commission will submit its redistricting map to the General Court. If the General Court disapproves of the Commission’s proposed map then the General Court may send it back to the Commission with listed problems. The General Court has three opportunities to reject the proposal of the Commission and request changes. If necessary, the fourth map created by the commission will be the final map that will actually be used for redistricting.
Under the proposed legislation, are competitive districts favored?
The commission may not create districts “for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a political party, or any individual.” However, the bill does specifically list five redistricting priorities and fostering competition in the districts is not one of these priorities.
Under the proposed legislation, can members of the public submit plans?
Yes. The public may submit maps and the commission will give the public access to map-making software. The public will also be allowed the opportunity to present opinions at a minimum of five public forums held throughout the commonwealth.
Does the proposed legislation allow for mid-decade redistricting?
No. The commission can only meet in years ending in one.