Monday, November 07, 2011

New Congressional Districts Look Solid

Without delving too deeply into the proposed districts, you have to at least admit that they look solid. If there's a lot of gerrymandering going on here, it's not visible on the surface. In fact, most of the obvious gerrymandering in the past will be fixed with this new effort. Let's look at some of the surface positives.
  • The Cape and Islands have joined the South Coast to create a new district, a district that should have always existed, in a part of the state that's never had a proper district, at least serving those alive today, cohesively representing the community and culture there.
  • John Tierney's district -- who politically looks like the weakest heading into the reelection cycle and therefore there was rampant speculation his district would be carved with an axe -- will remain intact. While this is my own district, so I have an vested interest in seeing it remain cohesive, it's also one of the least gerrymandered districts in the state, essentially fitting the county lines, linking together very similar communities, many coastal and blue collar. 
  • On the same lines, Tsongas's district remains intact. There's a few more changes to her district than Tierney's, but the core of Greater Lowell and Lawrence is still there and the new district will be just as cohesive as the one at present.
  • The absurdity of Barney Frank's district (it should be noted it was a district gerrymandered before he ever served in it) is cleaned up and will look totally different, along with McGovern's seat. The two swapped a lot of ground.
  • The two western mass districts now look a lot more like a Western Mass and Central Mass district, as they should.
  • To their credit, the politicians weren't afraid to rankle the congressmen serving in these districts. Frank lost very friendly territory in New Bedford and elsewhere, while Keating's house was redistricted right out of his district. Clearly, these districts weren't designed to "protect incumbents" and, in fact, go a long way toward creating cohesive, representative districts in this state. I'd go so far as saying that there's every possibility the changes made to these maps could cost a couple Democrats their seats in the coming election, as much as I hope that doesn't happen.
  • Then again, even when politicians aren't afraid to rankle some feathers, that doesn't mean even more politics won't smooth things over. While Lynch lost a lot of ground to Keating and Frank, and would have had to face off against Keating in a district with more of Keating's voters in it, Keating's already capitulated that fight and will set up shop in his Cape residence to avoid the skirmish. It looks like these two owe at least some thanks to Olver for this, even if he's from the other part of the state. Now at least the numbers add up, so voters won't have the chance to see the battle of two incumbents pitted against each other.
It's hard to come up with a perfect set of districts -- and a lot of people, in a lot of states, would settle for districts that aren't historically bad. So, with that in mind, I think we'll at least be able to call these districts good. In another 10 years, even more changes will be called for, but these can and probably will serve well for the 2010s.

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