seek to end gerrymandering
Members of a nearby legislative delegation
are looking to change the face of political map making.
Arlington state representatives Jay
Kaufman and James Marzilli and state Sen. Robert Havern, whose
constituent communities include Burlington, are all listed as
co-sponsors to redistricting legislation put forward for 2005. The
legislation would create an independent commission to redraw the
commonwealth's legislative and congressional districts after every
According to Common Cause Executive Director Pam Wilmot, an
independent board would once and for all end that great
Massachusetts tradition: Gerrymandering.
"The main goal is to take politics out of redistricting.
It's perfectly legal now to cut a challenger out of a
district," said Wilmot.
Kaufman said the legislation better serves democracy.
"I actually supported the ballot initiative as well in part
because I think legislative redistricting belongs in the hands of
people who look out for democracy and not themselves," said
Kaufman of the ballot question that voters approved in a number of
districts this fall.
Havern said politics are great for elections, but should not
decide where elections are held or whom an elected official would
"I think redistricting should be about fairness and
mathematics and the politics should be kept to the campaigns,"
Wilmot said redistricting has been used in the past to maintain
incumbency and to punish legislators who disagree with the majority
party's leadership. Such abuses have happened famously under former
Speaker of the House Tom Finneran and in other states, like Texas
and Pennsylvania, said Wilmot.
"It is used as a tool to reward loyalty among legislators
and punish those who don't toe the company line," she said.
Wilmot said an independent group's redistricting would return
districts to a proper shape and character. Communities would largely
be kept whole, and districts that span more than one town would
connect with nearby towns that share other characteristics. That
would change the map significantly in some areas, but it's nothing
compared to the tortuous contortions districts have undergone under
the current system, she said.
"Ask Chelmsford and Woburn if they've changed and they'd
say, 'Yeah, we've changed and we don't like it,'" said Wilmot.
"I don't think there would really be any harm and I don't think
the map would change radically. Most districts have a core town and
many districts already change radically."
Once the first, and more dramatic, change is made, ensuing
redistricting will be relatively benign, said Wilmot.
The redistricting proposal is only one of several bills filed on
behalf of Common Cause. Kaufman also filed legislation for instant
Instant runoff voting has voters rank their preference of
candidate instead of choosing only one name. When the votes are
counted, a candidate must amass a plurality of votes. If no
candidate breaks the 50 percent barrier, the last-place finisher is
removed from consideration and the second choice on those ballots
are counted. This continues until someone breaks 50 percent.
Wilmot said it's as easy as voting now. Instead of filling out a
bubble or drawing a line, a voter numbers candidates. If a voter
doesn't want to, he or she doesn't have to.
"It just gives voters the ability to rank candidates in
order of preference," said Wilmot. "It also ensures
whoever wins has the majority's support."
"There are many steps we can take to enhance democracy. Instant
runoff voting is one. Elimination of the electoral college is
another. Limiting campaign spending and the length of campaigns.
Providing for public access to fair and unmediated debates between
candidates is another," said Kaufman.
Marzilli could not be reached for comment.