Mar. 3. 2011
BOSTON — Democrats in the Massachusetts House Wednesday defeated a Republican-led effort to set up an independent commission to redraw the state’s political map.
By tradition, law and raw political reality, the party in control of the Legislature also gets to redraw a state’s election map every 10 years.
In Massachusetts, that means that Democrats, who control both houses, are arguably in the position to put some local and congressional seats out of reach for the GOP.
House Republicans proposed a measure that would establish a purportedly independent, non-partisan redistricting commission with members appointed by government officials from both parties. The GOP says that the public would have more confidence in an independent commission that was free of any hint of political influence.
Democrats rejected the proposal in a party-line vote of 121 Democrats to 31 Republicans. They argue it's too late in the process to create a new panel.
House GOP Leader Brad Jones of North Reading says he never expected the measure to pass. Still, he says, it’s important to bring attention to the issue. And now he says, Democrats are on the record, voting down the GOP measure.
“I actually had one member come up to me and said, well, if we had done this maybe two years ago I would have been for it. And I said, well, here’s the roll call from 2 years ago and you voted against it… oh, maybe 3 years ago… it highlights that,” Jones said.
For their part, House Democrats promise a fair and transparent redistricting process, beginning with a dozen public hearings around the states.
And it does seem that no one wants a repeat of what happened in 2000, the last time districts were redrawn, when minority groups successfully sued Massachusetts over the Legislature’s proposed district map. They claimed that the election map discriminated against black and other minority voters in Boston while protecting incumbents such as then-Speaker of the House Thomas Finneran.