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.
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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org