Background and procedural information
SB12 is a proposal to amend Art. CI of the Massachusetts constitution to create an independent redistricting commission. It was introduced by Richard Moore, a Democrat from Worcester and has been referred to the committee on election law.
Under the proposed legislation, are single-member districts a requirement or otherwise implied?
Yes. The bill specifically requires the commission draw single-member districts.
Does the proposed legislation provide for Voting Rights Act compliance (e.g. can the commission use voter history information)?
Maybe. While the bill requires districts to be drawn in accordance with the Voting Rights Act, it precludes the use of party affiliation or voting history of all residents. Additionally, the commission has no ability to use this information to test a plan for compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
Under the proposed legislation, how is the commission formed?
The legislation proposes a 7-member commission, three of whom are appointed. The governor must appoint a dean or professor of law or political science or government at a private institution of higher learning in Massachusetts; the Attorney General must appoint a retired federal or state judge who resides in Massachusetts ; and the Secretary of Commonwealth must appoint a former chief of the elections division in the office of the State Secretary or a former chief legal counsel to that division, or a member of a non-profit organization that advocates for voting rights.
The remaining four members are chosen as follows; the four state legislative leaders; Speaker of the House, Senate President and both minority leaders, each nominate three candidates. The three appointed members then choose one candidate from each leaders three choices. There are no political equality requirements, but the commission shall reflect the geographic, racial, ethnic, gender, and age diversity of Massachusetts. Elected officials, their staffs and registered lobbyists are not eligible.
Under the proposed legislation, are competitive districts favored?
Under the proposed legislation, can members of the public submit plans?
Yes. The public can submit proposed maps for consideration by the commission, who must make map-making software available for public use in as accessible a format as is possible.
Does the proposed legislation allow for mid-decade redistricting?
No. The commission is only formed in the year following the census and disbands as soon as a final plan has been adopted and all judicial review has been exhausted.
*Note: A proposal may be neutral on whether or not to favor competitive districts for a number of reasons, including that such a requirement may be thought to conflict with other criteria, potentially create other legal issues, or is assumed to flow from the new process itself -- or it might merely not be a priority for the legislative sponsors. FairVote believes that some form of proportional voting is needed to ensure maximum competitiveness for each seat and to ensure meaningful choices for all voters.