BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday approved new State Senate districts as part of the decennial redistricting process. Under the proposed plan, 92 percent of Massachusetts residents will remain in their current state Senate districts, fewer counties and communities are split, and districts are more compact.
The Special Joint Committee on Redistricting, chaired by Senator Stan Rosenberg (D- Amherst) and Representative Michael Moran (D- Boston), held 13 public hearings across the state and created a website to provide opportunities for people to participate in the redistricting process. The districts approved were released two weeks in advance of debate to allow additional public feedback and revisions.
Redistricting is a constitutionally required process that occurs every 10 years after the release of the US census data. Population shifts occur over time and the redistricting committee is tasked with redrawing state political borders to ensure a more equal distribution of population between districts. Over the past 10 years, the overall population deviation between districts increased to 18 percent. The new districts passed by the Senate are within plus or minus 5 percent of the ideal population for a Senate district, which is 163,691 persons.
The Committee was mindful of the voting power of minority populations by creating a new minority-majority district in the Springfield area that gives minority populations equal electoral opportunity. The existing two minority-majority districts in Boston were maintained and strengthened. Many advocacy groups have praised the Redistricting Committee for increasing the number of minority-majority districts and for holding a fair and open process.
The new Senate districts, as well as new districts for the state House of Representatives and Governor’s Council, were enacted and sent to the Governor’s desk for approval. Once signed into law, they will be effective for the November 2012 elections.
Under the new redistricting plan, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield)’s Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin District grows from 48 to 52 communities. With the addition of Buckland and Shelburne in Franklin County and Chester and Blandford in Hampden County, in 2013 the district will be known as the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden Senate District.