The Committee on Election Laws on Tuesday afternoon was voting on legislation that would allow the Legislature to redraw state and federal political districts before cities and town adjust their local precincts to reflect changes in population.

The reversal of the order of tasks, according to supporters, would allow the Committee on Redistricting to draw more precise maps that better reflect the diversity of Massachusetts, but Secretary of State William Galvin vehemently opposes the idea, which is a deviation from the way redistricting normally occurs.

Galvin testified Monday that the change amounted to an unnecessary power grab by the Legislature that would strip municipalities of their important role in the redistricting process by not letting them draw their own precincts.

The Democrat said he would encourage Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, to veto the bill if it passes. The Committee on Election Laws, co-chaired by Rep. Dan Ryan and Sen. Barry Finegold, opened the poll just before 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, recommending a favorable report.

The online voting began less than a day after a hearing on the bill (H 820), and members of the committee were given until 3 p.m. to cast their vote.

Before Monday’s hearing, Rep. Michael Moran and Sen. William Brownsberger, the co-chairs of the Redistricting Committee, submitted a redraft of the bill for the committee’s consideration.

Moran was the original sponsor. Rep. Shawn Dooley, a Republican on the committee, voted against the proposal, and expressed his frustration with the process.

Though someone had shared with him an early copy of the redraft last week, Dooley said the committee had not been given the final version and did not take testimony on that draft.

“You typically re-write a bill with input from the hearing not prior to and then file it afterwards,” Dooley said. “It is a shame that many of those testifying had the opportunity to see what was being put forward but the members of the committee did not. This is not how a democratic process should work.”

While Brownsberger told the News Service that the major change to the bill was to sunset the new redistricting schedule after this year, a committee staffer confirmed that Election Laws was voting on the original version, not the redraft.

The change is being proposed as lawmakers try to work around pandemic-related delays in the delivery of 2020 Census data, and get redrawn districts in place in time for the 2022 elections. 

(Copyright (c) 2021 State House News Service.

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