After the release of the U.S. Decennial Census, Massachusetts is mandated by the United States Constitution and Federal Voting Rights Act to change its House, Senate, Governor’s Council and Congressional district boundaries to accommodate shifts in population and provide equal representation to its citizens.
Census data show that Massachusetts’ population growth over the last decade was driven by Black, Hispanic, and Asian residents. Advocacy groups have advocated that lawmakers must draw districts that empower those communities of color to elect their preferred candidates, sending them to a Legislature that has remained far whiter than the state as a whole.
The Drawing Democracy Coalition recently argued that lawmakers may have violated voting rights law by not drawing a majority-minority Senate district based around Brockton, whose entire State House delegation is white. But by now reshaping the lines, the Senate map would double the number of majority-minority districts in the 40-member Senate chamber from three to six.
The other two, featured in the original plan, include Lawrence and a combination of Chelsea, Everett, Charlestown, and Cambridge.
This is the power of a fair and transparent redistricting process — community members, advocates and local officials made their voices heard and demanded more equitable representation for Black Indigenous People Of Color, immigrant and low-income communities in Massachusetts, and the Redistricting Committee listened,” said Beth Huang of the Drawing Democracy Coalition and the Massachusetts Voter Table.
“As a result, BIPOC voters across the commonwealth, and particularly in Brockton and Lawrence, will have greater opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”
The change will allow the new district’s Hispanic majority to elect a candidate of its choice. The state Senate is overwhelmingly white, with people of color holding only two of the 40 seats — Sen. Adam Gomez and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who is running for governor next year and therefore not seeking re-election.
House and Senate leaders said they drew the new district map lines with the goal of amplifying the political voice of people of color in the communities where their ranks have grown the most over the past decade: largely in the Boston area, but also in Worcester, Springfield, and Lawrence, a Latino-majority city of immigrants in the Merrimack Valley.
The Legislature has drawn an incumbent-free Merrimack Valley Senate seat where 59 percent of residents, and 49 percent of eligible voters, are Hispanic. The new map splits Lawrence from Andover, its much wealthier, white-majority neighbor to the south, and instead pairs the immigrant city with parts of Haverhill and Methuen, where locals say the community overlap is much more natural.
“The change was needed,” says former State Senate Candidate Doris Rodriguez, who ran back in 2014 for State Senate in the 2nd Essex and Middlesex District which consisted of Lawrence, Andover, Tewksbury and Dracut, when the seat was vacant.
“The way the district was created made no logical sense. There were four communities with different needs and many on the opposite sides of the spectrum. The change was well overdue. You cannot have full representation if you don’t have diversity. I believe redistricting will allow transparency on the issues and allow everyone, including Hispanics, to have representation on Beacon Hill. I would definitely consider running for the seat next year.”
The Legislature has also made changes to the House where Haverhill will go from four state representatives down to two and will greatly impact Bradford, which is currently represented by Lenny Mirra, Christina Minicucci and Linda Dean Campbell, whose district will become much larger in terms of population.
Under the new map lines, the 15th Essex District, currently represented by Campbell, would encompass most of Bradford and a large section of northwestern Haverhill, while the 3rd Essex District, currently represented by Andy Vargas, would include the rest of Haverhill.
There will also be another new incumbent-free House seat, 4th Essex District, which will also consist of Lawrence and Methuen.