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Massachusetts Senate rejects implementation of independent redistricting commission

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January 27, 2011

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BOSTON, Massachusetts: Last week, the Massachusetts Senate rejected a bill to establish an independent redistricting commission.

The legislation -- introduced by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R) -- was rejected by a 34-5 vote.[1] Senator Stanley Rosenberg (D) said he does not believe there is any evidence that independent commissions draw better maps than legislative committees.[2] "Voting is one of the most fundamental rights in Massachusetts. Redistricting affects the enfranchisement of every voter in the state. ...This is not an attempt to try to alter the authority of the Legislature. This is an attempt to draw others into the process," Tarr said.[1]

On January 12, 2011, a poll was released showing that 66 percent of Massachusetts residents support putting an independent commission in charge of redistricting. Only 23 percent of respondents said the legislature should continue to be in charge of redistricting. The survey questioned 400 adults and has a 5 percent margin of error.[3] When the poll was focused solely on respondents who view the legislature favorably, the independent commission was still supported 54 percent to 34 percent.[4] Senator Robert Hedlund plans to introduce legislation to create an independent commission.[3]

The bill would have established a seven-member commission which would be responsible for drawing the maps. Those maps would then be approved or voted down by the Massachusetts General Court. The independent commission was supported by Governor Deval Patrick (D), former Governor Mitt Romney (R), current Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.[5]

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