Episode 107: The Times They Aren't A Changin

35 minutes

11/13/19-- Massachusetts elected officials -- both current and former -- just can't seem to resist the pull of the Presidency. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is running for the Democratic nomination for president, sources tell CNN. He's scheduled to officially announce on Friday. That will bring the tally to 3 Bay Staters who've competed in the 2020 race.

Perhaps these candidates feel emboldened by their history governing in in what's perceived a progressive state, but when it comes to fair and accurate representation, Massachusetts is in desperate need of some progress. According to a new MassINC study, the demographic and partisan makeup of the Massachusetts state legislature vastly underrepresents its electorate. In order to achieve balance, the legislature would need an additional 31 members of color, 47 female members, and 16 Republican members.

Ben Forman, co-author of the report and research director at MassINC, stopped by the podcast to provide an in-depth look at what the report covers. One of the stumbling blocks preventing equal representation is Massachusetts' lack of electoral competition. In fact, it ranks as the least competitive of all fifty states. One solution the report proposes is public financing, which requires candidates or parties to accept public funding in exchange for a promise to limit how much they spend and receive in donations. This is a measure, Forman says, Massachusetts voters "like." "They passed it by a very large majority, and the legislature didn't want to do it. Well, 20 years later, I think there's more awareness that that has had a cost in terms of female representation and people of color."

Low voter turnout is another symptom of Massachusetts' current system, and the report calls for synchronizing state and local elections to reduce election overload. The current system that requires voters to hit the polls frequently was designed to suppress voices of color, says Forman. "We moved municipal elections to off years, I think, intentionally, to lower turnout because people were concerned about too many people of color coming out to vote and changing communities. That's the history that we should acknowledge and call out."

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