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Gerrymandering Our Political Borders


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In six states (Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Jersey and Washington), congressional redistricting is performed by an independent, bipartisan commission.


In the remaining states, the state legislature has primary responsibility for creating a redistricting plan, subject to approval by the state governor. Various states also have laws or constitutions mandating that municipal governments do this as well.


You may ask yourself, “Why does neither party want to give up control of redistricting?”


In most states, incumbent legislators draw the boundaries of their own districts and that of the Congressional districts. The party in power, does two things, they

draw districts that favor their party winning the majority of seats, and they draw

districts that protect incumbents from any challengers, creating as many “safe”

districts as possible. This process has resulted in a surprisingly low number of

competitive races around the country. The losers in this battle are democracy and

the voters. Most voters do not live in districts where they can unseat an incumbent

if they don’t like him or her because the district is stacked against them. Voters

can’t hold their elected members accountable and they don’t have the real or perceived power of making a difference.


In 2008, there will be more referenda regarding election reform on ballots across

the country, and we need to persuade people of both parties that this is not a

partisan issue, but a democracy issue. The people win if democracy works.

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Put an end to gerrymandering



Please look at a map of the legislative districts in Massachusetts. The district lines wiggle around for no apparent reason. There is, in fact, a sinister reason for this ... to take political advantage. Incumbent legislators control the redistricting. Redistricting is a powerful opportunity for legislative leaders to put a spin on an election by creating districts that will give them or their allies unfair advantage over their opponents when all the ballots are counted. Shrewd redistricting in Texas enabled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to influence the outcome of elections in that state. Any party in power can take unfair advantage of the electorate by manipulating redistricting .


Instead of the incumbents in the state legislature drawing the district lines, (a highly political process carried out behind closed doors), an independent commission should do this job after each census, fairly and with an opportunity for public input. Iowa does it this way, and the result is better representation and more competitive elections.


Signing an initiative petition in Lexington this fall would move us toward districts that are compact, feature communities and neighborhoods that share common interests and have legislators who truly represent them. We can give ourselves the opportunity to have better redistricting in Massachusetts. If you see someone collecting signatures for Fair Districts in town, remember that it's democracy that they're working for. Take few seconds and sign the petition.


Anyone that would like to be further involved in this campaign to support honest redistricting, call David Nuss at 781-861-9811. It would be a small effort to protect the right to have fair elections ... something hard to obtain but easy to lose.


Ralph Fleischmann


Common Cause volunteer


Shade Street

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Guest Ryan O'Donnell

Takoma Park, Maryland votes 84% for instant runoff voting


In an advisory ballot measure placed on the ballot by a 7-0 vote of the Takoma Park city council, fully 84% of voters voted for the proposal to have future city elections use instant runoff voting. A majority of the city council is committed to implementing the new system in time for the mayoral and city council races in 2007.


Rob Richie, director of FairVote- The Center for Voting and Democracy commented, "This was a huge win for better elections. Instant runoff voting is an essential component of the future of reform."


Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., a FairVote board member, applauded the vote. “Today's overwhelming victory for instant runoff voting in Takoma Park is the latest signal that the American people are ready to upgrade American democracy. All across this nation our citizens deserve an electoral process that gives us real choices, the freedom to vote for our favorite choices and the power of majority rule."


Used to elect the most powerful offices in cities like San Francisco (CA) and Burlington (VT) and in nations like Australia, Ireland and Great Britain, instant runoff voting ensures candidates win single-seat offices with majority support. It accomplishes the goals of a traditional runoff election in one efficient round of voting. Voters indicate both their favorite and their runoff choices. If no candidate receives a majority of first choices, the weak candidates are eliminated and their supporters' votes are counted for their runoff choices. It contrasts with conventional plurality elections which allow a candidate to win without majority support and traditional runoff elections which require two separate and often costly elections.


More info at:



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