BOSTON (AP) — Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation Monday creating new lines for Massachusetts' nine congressional districts.
The map avoids any dramatic shifts in district lines, in large part because the state retains the same number of existing congressional districts. That sidesteps the need to combine districts and force incumbent lawmakers to run against each other.
One point of contention came in the state’s 4th Congressional District, currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss.
Redistricting advocates criticized the map for failing to combine the cities of Fall River and New Bedford into the same district.
Advocates argued that similar immigrant communities — including a significant Portuguese population — in the two cities should be placed in the same district to increase their political clout and better help them elect candidates of their choice.
While the map unites Fall River, it puts the entire city in the 4th District and keeps New Bedford in the 9th District.
As a result, the advocates said, Fall River residents could continue to see their voting power diluted by more upscale suburbs of Boston, like Brookline, Newton and Wellesley, which are also in the 4th District.
“When you take wealthy, politically powerful suburbs of Boston and combine them into a congressional district with a major urban, Gateway City such as Fall River, the differences in interests and needs are obvious,” Renee Ledbetter, vice president of the New Bedford branch of the NAACP said earlier this month.
Auchincloss welcomed the new congressional district lines.
“Though the basic contours of the 4th District persist, there is one major change,” Auchincloss said in a written statement after the maps were first unveiled. “I am thrilled that all of Fall River will now be in the district.”
The map would also increase the share of people of color living in the state’s 7th Congressional District, currently represented by the only Black member of the delegation, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley.
The redesigned district, created after the 2010 census, was intended to contain a majority of minority voters. It was previously represented by U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano until Pressley defeated him in 2018.
All nine members of the state’s congressional delegation are Democrats.
Ten years ago the state was forced to cut 10 districts down to nine, a fate avoided this time when Massachusetts reported enough of an increase in population — to just over 7 million — to retain all nine seats.
One goal of the map is to have each district home to the same number of people — about 781,100 each.
Baker also signed legislation earlier in the month creating new district lines for all 200 state House and Senate seats in Massachusetts.
In the new House map, the number of districts with a majority of minority residents will increase from 20 to 33, a move that state lawmakers who crafted the map said will help strengthen the political clout of Black, Hispanic and minority voters.
The Senate also worked to create districts to increase the opportunity for people of color to elect senators of their choice, including in Springfield, Boston and Lawrence.
Both chambers are overwhelmingly Democratic. The new maps reflect the state’s shifting population recorded by the 2020 U.S. Census.
Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has criticized the new maps saying they divide local precincts.