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Senate Approves Bill to End PR Voting in City Elections


The Massachusetts Senate this week reaffirmed its decision to enact a bill eliminating Cambridge's system of voting by proportional representation (PR).

After passing a motion to reconsider Monday's vote in which the Senate gave its initial approval to the bill, the 38-member body gave PR its death blow with a vote of 12 to 10.

The 240-member House approved the bill February 29 by a vote of 34 to 12, and it now awaits the signature of Governor Sargent.

The bill repeals the state law allowing cities to utilize the system of proportional representation voting, in which voters list candidates in descending order of preference. Cambridge is the only city in Massachusetts which uses this system.

Beacon Hill Politics

Senator John F. Parker (R-Taunton) opposed the bill. He said Wednesday that any change in the charter of a city government should be made by people living in the city and "not by the politicians on Beacon Hill."

Parker pointed out that Cambridge citizens had voted to retain the system of proportional representation five times in the last three decades. He said the bill represented "an incredible violation of the home rule amendment to the state constitution." This amendment prohibits the state legislature from passing a bill which affects only one city.

Parker noted that the Committee on Bills in Third Reading--the body which advises the Senate on the constitutional legality of pending legislation--refused to support the bill.

Senator Francis X. McCann (D-Cambridge), however, said Wednesday that PR violates the U.S. Supreme Court's "one man one vote" rule by forcing voters to make choices in order of preference. McCann said that under the PR system, the voter has only a fraction of one vote.

The Boston Globe supported Cambridge's proportional representation voting in a recent editorial. The editorial stated that PR has the advantage of making possible a truer expression of public opinion, and increases voter participation.

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