Plan to add majority-minority districts would touch South Shore, shift local incumbents

The Massachusetts Statehouse. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Katherine Sabido
Boston University Statehouse Program

BOSTON – The Legislature’s Special Committee on Redistricting has proposed new maps that would bring changes to the South Shore as part of a plan to create a historic number of majority-minority districts in the state.

The maps unveiled this week would create 33 majority-minority districts for the House and five for the Senate. Today, there are 20 House districts and three Senate districts in which minority populations make up a majority of residents. 

The proposed changes come in response to the state’s rapidly increasing diverse populations. In the last decade, the state’s Black population has grown by 16.7%, the Latino population by 41.4% and the Asian population by 45.3%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Committee co-chairman Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston, defined a majority-minority district as one that has an overall population made up of less than 50% of non-Hispanic white people. He  said the proposed maps reflect the maximum number of majority-minority districts that could have possibly been drawn.

“There is not an area on this map where you could draw (one), and we didn’t,” Moran said during Tuesday’s hearing.

Ten of the 33 majority-minority House districts would be majority Black or Hispanic districts, meaning that over 50% of the population in that district is made up of either Black or Hispanic residents. Two would be majority Black and eight would be majority Hispanic.

In the proposed new Senate districts, Sen. Walter Timilty, a Milton Democrat, would lose Canton and the half of Sharon he now represents. He would gain all of Easton, which he now represents most of, and all of Bridgewater, which is currently outside his district.

Sen. John Keenan, a Quincy Democrat, would lose a few precincts in Braintree but his district would be largely unchanged. State Sens. Susan Moran and Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth, would see no changes to their districts.

Rep. Bruce Ayers, D-Quincy, would gain two North Quincy precincts currently represented by Boston Democrat Dan Hunt and a section of Randolph. Hunt currently represents only a small part of Quincy. If his district changes, Quincy’s representation would be consolidated into three House seats.

Other South Shore representatives would also see shifts in their seats. Braintree Democrat Rep. Mark Cusack, for example, would lose a precinct in Randolph and gain one in Holbrook. Rep. Joan Meschino, a Hull Democrat, would gain a precinct in Hingham, bringing the whole town into her constituency, and lose a precinct she now represents in Scituate.

Of the proposed House districts, five would be created incumbent-free, meaning candidates would be running in a district with no standing representative. Four of those five would be majority-minority districts, including a revised 11th Plymouth, which does not correspond to the current 11th Plymouth that is held by House Majority Leader Claire Cronin, D-Easton.

To create an incumbent-free 11th Plymouth, Cronin would be pitted against fellow incumbent Rep. Gerard Cassidy, D-Brockton, during the 2022 election cycle. However, Moran said the committee strategically avoided creating incumbent battles in the new maps, referring to Cronin’s recent nomination by President Joe Biden to become the ambassador to Ireland.

In a neighboring district, Rep. Michelle DuBois, D-Brockton, currently serves the 10th Plymouth and has  been vocal about the need for more majority-minority districts. She said she has always believed that districts are unfairly drawn.

The 10th Plymouth District is majority white, with 54.6% percent non-Hispanic white residents, 27.4% Black, 10.8% Hispanic and 2% Asian. The new 10th Plymouth would become a majority-minority district, lowering the non-Hispanic white population to 31.7% overall.

“I always wanted the (10th Plymouth) to be 100% in Brockton because the values of the folks that live in Brockton are different than those that live in the smaller towns around us,” said DuBois in an interview Wednesday. “I think this redrawing of the 10th Plymouth District corrects much harm that’s been done to the City of Brockton in previous redistricting when cities were chopped up in order to break up the power of low-income (communities) and communities of color.”Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

DuBois said it is time for urban communities to stop being diluted by the smaller, often suburban or rural towns around them. The state’s white population decreased by 7% in the last decade, while Black, Asian and Latino populations have all increased, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“For the health of the city and the health of the commonwealth, it makes a lot of sense,” said DuBois. “If you can, keep low-income (communities), communities of color and urban communities in the same district and do not dilute them with surrounding communities.”

Legislators aim to get the new maps on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk by the end of the month to allow for at least 10 days before the Nov. 8 deadline for House candidates to  live in the districts they intend to run from in 2022, according to State House News Service.

Public comments on the proposed house districts will be accepted until 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18. Comments can be submitted at malegislature.gov/Redistricting/Contact

This article originally appeared in the Patriot Ledger.

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