All eyes must be on the Senate and House committees charged with redrawing the state’s most important political boundaries. We can’t let them skate on this one.
There’s a better chance of the Bruins winning another Stanley Cup in our lifetime than there is of the Legislature giving up its control of congressional redistricting. With that in mind, voters and government watchdogs need to be ready to drop the gloves and mix it up at the first sign of the kind of shenanigans that have marred the process in the past.
Despite pleas from Republicans and Democratic Secretary of State William Galvin, House and Senate leaders have made it clear that they are not interested in ceding the process to an independent redistricting commission.
Their unwillingness to relinquish that power shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the iron-fisted style with which they govern their respective chambers. But it certainly can’t be dismissed as paranoia if their unbending stance gives voters an uneasy feeling.
Redistricting has been plagued by unseemly politics since the process began 200 years. The word ‘gerrymandering’ was coined in 1812 when Massachusetts Gov. Eldridge Gerry redrew the state Senate districts in shapes that resembled a salamander so as to best benefit his party.
Two years ago, we touted a decision by California voters to wrest control of the redistricting process from its Legislature in favor of using a 14-member panel of citizens, chosen through a Byzantine process designed to preclude political interference.
The commission is charged with designing districts that are compact and don’t split up communities. What it can’t build into its calculations are factors politicians use to tilt the playing board: demographics, party registration or the home addresses of incumbents or potential challengers.
It may be too late for us this time around –– the redistricting must be complete in time for the 2012 elections –– but it’s an idea worth considering for when the issue arises again.
In California, the change required the intervention of the governor. Gov. Deval Patrick, who once raised the possibility and appears poised to shake things up in his second and ostensibly final term, should consider again taking up the challenge here.
Meanwhile, all eyes must be on the Senate and House committees charged with redrawing the state’s most important political boundaries. We can’t let them skate on this one.