SENATE, No. 453

By Mr. Moore, a petition (accompanied by bill, Senate, No. 453) of Richard T. Moore for legislation to establish an independent redistricting commission and criteria for redistricting for congressional districts. Election Laws.
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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In the Year Two Thousand and Seven.


AN ACT establishing an independent redistricting commission and criteria for redistricting for congressional districts

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. The Massachusetts General Laws are hereby amended by inserting after chapter 57 the following new chapter:--

Chapter 57A.  Procedure for Congressional Redistricting.

Section 1.  Any redistricting commission established pursuant to Article 101 of the Constitution shall have the additional duty of redrawing congressional districts as provided by this chapter.  If said commission has not been established, it shall be established in the manner prescribed by this chapter.

Section 2.  The federal census shall be the basis for determining U.S House districts for the ten-year period beginning with the first Wednesday of the third January following the commencement of the taking of said census. 

Section 3.    In the year after each census is commenced, and only in that year, an Independent Redistricting Commission (“Commission”) shall be convened and shall divide the Commonwealth into the number of congressional districts as required by federal law and any other districts as otherwise provided by law. All districts shall be drawn of contiguous territory, shall be equal in population to the extent required by law, and shall comply with federal constitutional and statutory requirements.  No district shall be drawn for the purpose or with the effect of diluting the voting strength of a group based on race, ethnicity or language minority status, or for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a political party, or any individual.  In drawing district lines, the Commission shall not consider residential address, party affiliation, or partisan voting history of any individual or groups of individuals, except to the extent necessary to avoid dilution of voting strength based on race, ethnicity or language minority status.  In addition, to the maximum extent possible, district boundaries shall be drawn so as to: (1)  maintain the unity of well-defined municipal neighborhoods; (2) observe municipal boundaries; and (3) promote geographic compactness of districts.  If it is not possible to draw district boundaries that fully comply with these criteria while also complying with the mandatory requirements set forth herein, then they shall be drawn to optimize the criteria in the order of priority set forth hereinabove.  The Commission shall also consider communities of interest in determining which cities, towns, or neighborhoods thereof to aggregate into a single district and if all other criteria are met.

Section 4.   The Commission shall consist of seven member commissioners.  On or before January 15 of the year following the commencement of the federal census, the following offices shall each appoint one member of the Commission: the Governor of the Commonwealth, who shall appoint a dean or professor of law or political science or government at an institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth; the Attorney General of the Commonwealth, who shall appoint a retired justice who resides in the Commonwealth; and the Secretary of the Commonwealth, who shall appoint an expert in civil rights law who is a resident of the Commonwealth.

            By the same date, the House Speaker, the House Minority Leader, the Senate President, and the Senate Minority Leader shall each nominate three individuals.   The appointees chosen by the Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of the Commonwealth shall then select one of the three nominees named by each said official.

            If nominations or appointments are not made by January 15 of such year,  the office  responsible for making the appointment or nominations shall forfeit its rights under this section and the remaining direct appointees shall then make an appointment to fill the vacancy.

            Nominations and appointments shall reflect the geographic, racial, ethnic, gender, and age diversity of the Commonwealth to the maximum extent feasible and shall be selected on the basis of civic involvement and knowledge of redistricting policy, civil rights, political science, demographics or statistics, election expertise, voting rights, community organizing, or law.  No person nominated or appointed to the Commission, in the five years preceding such nomination or appointment, shall have held Congressional, state legislative or statewide elective office, or shall have served as mayor or city councillor of a city in the Commonwealth, governor’s councillor, or shall have been elected to a state or federal party committee; or shall be a current employee, agent or family member of any of the above; or, in the two years preceding such nomination or appointment, shall have been a legislative agent.  The Commissioners shall agree: (1) not to stand for election to Congress, except to the extent as otherwise prohibited by law, the General Court, or the Governor’s Council, until districts are redrawn following the next census; (2) to apply the provisions of this article in an honest, independent, and impartial fashion; and (3) to act at all times so as to uphold public confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process.

Section 5.  The Commission shall be convened no later than February 15 of the year following the commencement of the decennial census.  The Commission shall disband only upon final adoption and exhaustion of judicial review of challenges to congressional districts.

Section 6.   The Commission shall hire staff and may retain experts to assist it in the performance of its duties.  The Commission shall establish rules governing its operation and procedures.  Commissioners may receive compensation for actual time spent on Commission duties and shall be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses.  The budget of the Commonwealth shall provide adequate funding for the operation of the Commission.

Section 7.   A member of the Commission or an appointing authority may petition the Supreme Judicial Court to remove a commissioner on the grounds of neglect, misconduct, or inability to perform the duties of a commissioner.  A vacancy so created shall be filled by the office which appointed the removed commissioner or by the nomination and selection process set forth in Section 4, as applicable.

            Section 8.  All meetings of the Commission shall be open to the public, consistent with the laws of the Commonwealth concerning open meetings.  All documents produced by or for the Commission shall be public.  The Commission shall hold public hearings in at least five geographically disbursed counties.  The public shall be afforded the opportunity to submit proposed maps for consideration by the Commission and the Commission shall make map-making software available for public use.  The Commission shall take all steps necessary to ensure that the public can exercise its right to review and comment on proposed district maps before they are approved and shall publish all preliminary and final plans in publicly accessible forums that are free of charge and that ensure wide public distribution.  Proposed districts shall be presented in both graphic and narrative form.

            Section 9. Within one hundred and twenty days of the completion of the decennial census, the Commission shall prepare and publish for public comment a preliminary plan for congressional districts.  The public shall have a three-week period to comment on the preliminary district plan.  The Commission may revise the preliminary district plan in response to public comment and shall submit the revised plan to the General Court, which shall vote on the revised plan.  If the plan is rejected, then the Commission shall prepare, publish, revise, and submit a second-round preliminary district plan in the same manner as the first.  Following the period for public comment, the Commission shall submit the revised plan to the General Court for a vote.  If the General Court votes to reject the second-round plan, then the Commission shall prepare, publish, revise, and submit a third-round preliminary district plan, in the same manner as the first.  If the General Court rejects the third-round plan, then the Commission shall prepare, publish, and revise a fourth-round plan in the same manner.  The plan, so revised, shall become law without submission to or approval by the General Court.

            With respect to each plan the Commission submits to the General Court for a vote, the vote must be taken within two weeks of submission.  No amendments to the plan as submitted may be made.  If the plan is approved by a majority of the members of the House and Senate present and voting or if no vote is taken within the two-week period, then the plan as submitted shall become law.

            Section 10.  Original jurisdiction is hereby vested in the Supreme Judicial Court upon the petition of any voter of the Commonwealth for judicial relief relative to the establishment of the congressional districts.  The General Court may by law limit the time within which judicial proceedings may be instituted to challenge any redistricting map.