The blog of Frederick Clarkson

Massachusetts Fair Districts Initiative Petition

with 3 comments

If we can collect enough signatures, there will be an initiative on the Massachusetts ballot in 2008 that will take the drawing legislative districts out of the smoke filled room — where they can be drawn in the light of day by an independent commission. Sound good? It is.

It’s called the Fair Districts initiative petition. Currently, election districts are drawn by the legislature — which has a poor record of drawing districts fairly. Deval Patrick, who was Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton Administration, said in endorsing the initiative: “In a healthy democracy the voters choose their representatives. In the system we have, the reps choose the voters. That’s upside down.”

Other endorsers of the initiative include fellow leading Democrats Michael Dukakis, Barney Frank, Steve Grossman, Scott Harshbarger, Robert Reich, Tom Reilly, and Warren Tolman — as well as Republican Governor Mitt Romney and Lt. Governor Kerry Healey — and many other political, academic and legislative leaders, as well as such newspapers as The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, and The Springfield Republican.

The campaign is being spearheaded by Common Cause, and, writes Leo Maley who is coordinating the participation of Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, it is

endorsed by many leading good government, civil rights, and progressive political organizations including PDM, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Mass Voters for Fair Elections, Mass PIRG, and Clean Water Action, among others…. What will the initiative accomplish? It will end “gerrymandering,” the political manipulation of electoral districts to dampen political competition and ensure easy reelection for those who control the process.

What has gerrymandering meant for Massachusetts? Unfair political gain. Lack of electoral competition. Cronyism. Poor community representation. Disenfranchisement of minorities. Payback for disfavored rank-and-file legislators– especially progressive legislators… Eleven other states draw their districts through independent commissions with significant success. The Fair Districts initiative petition takes the best practices from several states and adapts them to our unique political climate.

While PDM is helping gather signatures, Common Cause has comprehensive information on its web site, including downloadable copies of the petition.

With all of the support for this landmark electoral reform measure, what could go wrong? It’s simple. If citizens — that means us — are unable to get enough valid petitions signatures by the deadline, the measure will not appear on the ballot. Organizers say they need 100,000.

Please mail your petitions to:

Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts
Campaign Office
256 North Pleasant Street, Suite #1
Amherst, MA 01002

Please send in whatever number you have before November 15th.

To find out how you can help, write to Leo Maley,

Written by fred

October 26th, 2005 at 2:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'Massachusetts Fair Districts Initiative Petition'

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  1. Fred –

    I’ve got this issue with many of these redistricting plans, and I just want to throw it out there. The strongest argument AGAINST reform is “elected officials draw the lines, if I don’t like them they’re accountable to me through election. If a non-elected official is charged with this task, how will they be held accountable” … my brother brought it up when we were discussing this issue and I didn’t have a great reply.

    Personally, I support these initiatives anywhere and everywhere. Having seen the after effects of the Delay led Tex redistricting, I’m willing to do just about anything to make sure that people choose their representatives, as opposed to the representatives choosing them. But I’d like to hear how people respond to the above argument


    27 Oct 05 at 5:47 am

  2. Political accountability is the whole point of redistricting reform. With gerrymandered districts, voters can’t hold elected officials accountable for anything, let alone for redistricting, because the districts are tailor-made to ensure easy reelection. In Massachusetts only about 1/3 of our races have competition in the general or the primary causing an increasingly dysfunctional political process. Besides, whom do the voters in Chelmsford Mass, which went from a single district to a shattered four-piece fragment, hold accountable? They are no longer are a voting block, and the person responsible, Speaker Finneran, lives in Boston. In fact, an independent commission would be more accountable because, unlike the present, there would be clear enforceable standards for their redistricting work and all aspects of the process would be open to the public. Sunshine, as they say, is the best disinfectant. Currently, the process is conducted behind closed doors from beginning to end, and all of the records are secret—protected by so called “legislative privilege.”

    Pam Wilmot

    28 Oct 05 at 5:00 pm

  3. Fred, Send email to Clay Wood at

    Clay Wood

    9 Nov 05 at 1:26 pm

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