Oct. 18, 2011
BOSTON — After months of public hearings and closed-door negotiations, Massachusetts lawmakers unveiled the first draft of the new state House and Senate districts on October 18. The changes have potentially serious ramifications for people of color.
The map would increase the number of minority-majority districts in the House from 10 to 20, including four majority Hispanic districts in Lawrence, Springfield and East Boston. In the Senate, one new minority-majority district would be created in Springfield.
Kevin Petersen is the executive director of the New Democracy Coalition, which advocates for Asians, Latinos and African Americans to ensure they get a fair say in the redistricting process. He was excited about the proposed changes.
“It would mean more minorities would be elected onto Beacon Hill and will provide the needed leverage in terms of very specific public policy bills like public education or public safety or health care,” he said.
Alejandra St. Guillen, executive director of the Latino organization ¿Oíste?, was mostly pleased with the map but concerned that one of the House precincts in Chelsea would be pulled into East Boston, diluting the Latino vote in the state.
"That district in particular has a very high voter turnout of Latinos,” she said. In addition, “There’s a gay community rising on that waterfront that is very much allied with the Latinos in Chelsea, that is very much allied with their progressive values."
A public comment period is now open for the proposed changes. The map then goes to the House and Senate. Debate is scheduled to start October 31.
The more controversial map that will cut the number of state congressional districts by one has yet to be released.