[IMC-Boston-Dispatch] Fwd: CC/MA Statement on Fair Districts
News at JamaicaPlainGazette.com
news at jamaicaplaingazette.com
Wed Aug 3 08:29:29 PDT 2005
Begin forwarded message:
> From: "CC/MA Press Release" <maupdate at commoncause.org>
> Date: August 1, 2005 6:04:40 PM EDT
> To: <news at jamaicaplaingazette.com>
> Subject: CC/MA Statement on Fair Districts
> Reply-To: "CC/MA Press Release" <maupdate at commoncause.org>
> COMMON CAUSE MASSACHUSETTS NEWS
> For Immediate Release: Contact:
> August 1, 2005 Pam Wilmot,
> Statement of Pamela H. Wilmot, Executive Director, at Announcement
> of Fair Districts Initiative Petition Press Conference
> Today we deliver on a promise we made seven months ago and announce
> the filing of an initiative petition to bring the issue of Fair
> Districts to the people of Massachusetts. For it is the people
> that lose when districts are manipulated to protect those with
> political power. Often called “gerrymandering,” the way
> Massachusetts draws electoral districts is not fair. It limits
> electoral competition, diminishes political accountability,
> disenfranchises minority voters, and leads to confusing and often
> crazy district lines. In fact, courts have rejected redistricting
> plans every time they have been before the courts since the mid-
> eighties—in 1987, 1993, and 2004.
> The current process of redistricting is nothing short of democracy
> on its head: Elected officials picking their voters instead of the
> other way around. This petition will put the voters back in their
> rightful place—and restore their ability to fully select
> representatives of their choice.
> We know the voters are behind us. Last summer Common Cause
> collected signatures and qualified public policy questions on
> redistricting reform in 15 state representative districts. All of
> the questions passed overwhelmingly—by an average of 67%.
> We know that many legislators are behind us—some are here today
> including the legislation’s chief sponsor Senator Richard T. Moore
> (D-Uxbridge)—and others are working with their colleagues to move
> this issue forward from the inside. The petition we announce today
> augments the efforts of 58 Senators and Representatives who filed
> the Fair Districts legislation last year. We will be working on
> parallel track with each effort augmenting the other.
> The petition we announce today is very similar to the Fair
> Districts legislation, yet reflects comments we have received from
> legislators and others. It will create a non-partisan 7- member
> independent redistricting commission, selected by 7 different
> individuals. The commissioners will come from many different
> backgrounds and areas of expertise, but none can be elected
> officials, their staff, or registered lobbyists. Maps must be
> drawn according to strict principles, which include maintaining
> town boundaries to the maximum extent feasible, grouping towns and
> neighborhoods according to common qualities, drawing compact lines
> of continuous territory, nesting smaller districts within larger
> ones, and of course equal population. In order to accomplish this,
> the Independent Redistricting Commission may use demographic
> information from the Census, but voting history, party
> registration, and the addresses of any individual CANNOT be used.
> All of the commission’s actions must be public and all records
> available for review. Citizens may submit maps of their own and the
> Commission’s proposals will be available for public comment before
> they are referred to the Legislature for a vote. Like the system
> used in Iowa, our proposal gives the legislature the ability to
> approve or reject, without amendment, up to three different plans.
> All along, the legislature and the public will be able to offer
> suggestions. The fourth plan would become law without approval.
> In Iowa, which has had a similar process for 30 years and three
> redistricting cycles, the first or second plan has always been
> Redistricting commissions have worked well in other states and they
> can work here in Massachusetts. Eleven states conducted
> redistricting through a commission in 2002, and the average
> competitiveness of the districts, 70.4 percent, was significantly
> higher than the roughly 50 percent produced by legislative bodies.
> Compare that data to Massachusetts’ competitiveness rate of around
> 30 percent-- at least until the last election, where it was just
> below the national average. On the Congressional side, Iowa had
> more competitive races than California, New York, and Illinois
> combined, despite the latter states having 20 times more seats.
> At stake here is the very health of our democracy.
> Massachusetts pioneered the practice of political gerrymandering
> and we can be one of the first states to end the practice. We
> pledge today to wage a spirited and visible campaign to collect
> 100,000 signatures and to ultimately enact this important reform.
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