Fresh air redistricting

November 9th, 2011


The following opinion piece was written by journalism professor Fred Bayles, a former USA Today and AP reporter. He is also the director of BU’s State House Program.



Another long-observed tradition has fallen in Massachusetts. No, not the Patriots-at-home winning streak. This time it is the often Byzantine process of redistricting.

Past processes that date back to the coinage of the phrase Gerrymandering in 1812 were ignored by this year’s special committee on redistricting. Instead of closed door meetings, political horse trading and federal suits challenging the opaque process and highly political results, we have seen an open process with 13 public hearings and the creation of state legislative and congressional maps that are mostly logical and relatively fair.

Doesn’t anyone respect the old ways anymore?

A big case in point is the new proposed congressional map that reconfigures the state’s 10 congressional districts into nine. Squiggly lines have been straightened. Incumbents have lost some of their stronghold towns in the redrawing.

One congressman – William Keating – has even lost his district and will have to move to his summer home on the Cape to run in the new incumbent-less 9th district. Barney Frank’s 4th district, currently the very definition of Gerrymandering, has been straightened out, costing Frank some of his best vote-getting towns. Boston’s 7th district is now a majority-minority district, a move that could create more challengers to Mike Capuano.

State Rep. Michael Moran and Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, along with their committee members, deserve a round of applause from the state’s voters.

Drawing from the painful experience of the previous decade’s redistricting process that ended in court and also ended House Speaker Tom Finneran’s career, the committee has redrawn the Massachusetts political landscape fairly and logically. It is likely that the redistricting plan will go unchallenged, unlike the process in some 26 other states this year.

The big winners are the Massachusetts voters who will likely get additional choices when they enter the voting booth this year. The losers? Well, tradition I suppose.


Contact Bayles at 617-353-7736;

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