In early May, the State Senate and House of Representatives will sit together as a Constitutional Convention. Several contentious issues will come before that session. It is to be hoped that the rancor caused by the disputed issues does not mean that important but less controversial issues do not get considered.
Common Cause, Massachusetts, of which I am a Board Member, is proposing a Bill (Senate Bill 12) to adopt a program of fair redistricting. Essentially this means having a independent commission (with representation from the political parties) draw the boundary maps rather than the State Legislature doing so. This would avoid powerful legislators using the process to reward friends and punish enemies and would prevent mid-term redistricting as happened in Texas. It would require the map drawers to create compact districts that respected the boundaries of towns and cities and met the constraints of equal size and adherence to the Federal Voting Rights Act.
The present districting situation in Cambridge means that our town is represented by no less that three State Senators and by six State Representatives. On average, our Senators represent 3.7 towns in addition to Cambridge. Each State Representative represents on average one other town. Their attention is scattered between our town and Boston, Somerville, Arlington, Belmont and Watertown.
Last Fall, Common Cause and its allies gathered 60,000 signatures from across the state in support of Bill 12. In addition it has strong bi-partisan support from Legislative leaders and Gubernatorial candidates.But the job is not yet done, the proposal is coming before the legislature in the Constitutional Convention on May 10th. We need 101 votes to keep it moving (a second legislative vote next year and a ballot item in 2008).
To find out more go to the Common Cause web site for additional information:
or read my op-ed of last August in this newspaper: http://www.townonline.com/cambridge/opinion/view.bg?articleid=310370
If you agree with the need for redistricting reform please contact your State Senator and State Representative at the State House and ask them to vote for this important measure. You can find out who they are here: http://www.commoncause.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=252081
With the help of us all, this important reform can be accomplished. Contact the Legislature now!