This article discusses legislative reapportionment and past efforts to manipulate district lines as far back as the legendary Elbridge Gerry in the early nineteenth century. Specifically, it deals with what political history has to tell us about the current furor over House Speaker Thomas Finneran’s proposed congressional redistricting. More than any other state in the Union, the Massachusetts lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have enjoyed disproportionate power as a result of a bipartisan strategy of incumbency protection dating back to the 1940s. That power may be in jeopardy if Speaker Finneran implements his plans to create a new 5th District in southeastern Massachusetts while merging districts represented by two incumbent Democratic congressmen, Marty Meehan of Lowell and John Tierney of Salem. The speaker broke with a tradition of deference to incumbency and collegial consensus building that normally prevails during the decennial redrawing of district lines and may have risked diminishing Massachusetts’s political power for at least a decade.



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