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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Frank's Redistricting Complaint

MetroWest Daily News op-ed; no longer on-line. Here is a version:

Redistricting and Barney's Version

Martin G. Evans

It was sad to hear of Barney Frank's retirement from politics. He has been a reliable liberal voice in the house for over 30 years.

It was even sadder to hear his complaints about the Massachusetts redistricting results.

For the first time in a generation, the Redistricting process in Massachusetts was open and transparent. Meetings were held by the Joint Committee on Redistricting across the state so that ordinary people could provide their fine-grained input about where sensible boundaries might be drawn. Common Cause even held a contest so that individual citizens could design maps using publicly available (at no cost) on-line software. The results can be seen here:

The Redistricting Committee had to consider several important constraints:

Districts had to be of equal size

Districts had to fulfill the Commonwealth's obligations under Federal law

Districts as far as possible should be:


not split other political divisions (e.g., towns or cities)

keep communities of interest together

Finally, in a perfect world, districts should not reflect the preferences of the incumbents

Frank is reported as saying that “If the district had been substantially similar, I would have felt obligated to run again.” 

This year, with Massachusetts having lost a Congressional seat, it was impossible to create districts that were substantially similar to those designed a decade ago. In the process, legislators and common people alike had the chance to argue for their preferred district boundaries.

This year the Committee did a good job of meeting the formal criteria

This year, these new districts give the public a chance to chose their Representatives rather than fulfilling the old cliché: “The Representatives choosing the voters they prefer.”

Gerrymandering is dead in Massachusetts..