Six legislative districts shift majority minority

Minorities fueling population growth over last 10 years

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

A NEW ANALYSIS shows that the populations of at least five state House of Representatives districts and one Senate district have moved from mostly white to majority-minority, a demographic shift that could have implications when lawmakers draw new district boundaries later this year.

Lawyers for Civil Rights, which commissioned the analysis conducted by Boston University professor Maxwell Palmer, said it offers “a preview of the opportunities that lie ahead to make representative democracy a reality in Massachusetts, particularly for people in racially and demographically diverse communities.”

There are currently 20 districts, out of 160, in the Massachusetts House where a racial minority group or a coalition of minority groups make up a majority of the total population, according to Lawyers for Civil Rights. LCR said Palmer’s report found that overall population growth in Massachusetts over the past 10 years has primarily been driven by increases in minority populations.

The report identifies five districts it says are now minority-majority and three others that are “close to becoming majority-minority — or may serve as starting points to draw new majority-minority districts.”

The five districts identified as having already shifted to minority-majority are the Ninth Hampden, represented by first-term Rep. Orlando Ramos of Springfield; the 28th Middlesex, represented by Everett Rep. Joseph McGonagle; the 33rd Middlesex, represented by Malden Rep. Steven Ultrino; the First Norfolk, represented by Quincy Rep. Bruce Ayers; and the 16th Worcester, represented by Worcester Rep. Daniel Donahue.

The three districts the analysis said are nearly majority-minority are the 10th Plymouth (Rep. Michelle DuBois), 15th Suffolk (Rep. Nika Elugardo) and 16th Suffolk (Rep. Jessica Giannino).

In the Senate, Palmer’s report said one district (Middlesex and Suffolk, represented by Everett Sen. Sal DiDomenico) has shifted from majority-white to majority-minority, which would bring that branch’s total to four districts out of 40. Another district (the Second Essex and Middlesex, Andover Sen. Barry Finegold) has more than 45 percent minority population “and could potentially be drawn as a majority-minority district under a new plan,” Palmer wrote.

“This analysis demonstrates that redistricting in 2021 poses an incredible opportunity for communities of color to expand their political power and elect representatives who understand their needs and respond to their interests,” LCR executive director Iván Espinoza-Madrigal said in a statement.

Lawmakers serving on the Joint Redistricting Committee redraw the boundaries for legislative and Congressional districts every 10 years. Like all committees on Beacon Hill, the panel will be controlled by Democrats, who hold supermajorities in both branches.

Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano have not yet doled out their committee assignments for the 2021-2022 term. Last session, Democrats Rep. Paul Mark of Peru and Sen. Will Brownsberger of Belmont chaired the Redistricting Committee.

Lawyers for Civil Rights, along with groups including Common Cause, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the League of Women Voters, is part of a coalition that last month wrote to Mariano and Spilka, encouraging them to name Redistricting Committee members who reflect “the rich racial and geographic diversity of our Commonwealth.” The coalition expressed hope that this year’s process will “bolster political power and participation in underrepresented communities.”

The 200-seat state Legislature skews white and male. The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus has 16 members, including Ramos and Elugardo, and there are 62 women lawmakers. A 2019 MassINC report found that women, Asian, African-American and Latino residents were underrepresented in the Legislature, while white residents and male residents were overrepresented.

A decade ago, Redistricting Committee Chairs Rep. Michael Moran and Sen. Stan Rosenberg officially kicked off their process in March by announcing plans to hold 13 public hearings and launching a website with committee information as they awaited local-level Census data. Slow population growth in the 2010 Census lost Massachusetts one of its then-10 Congressional seats.

The committee unveiled its new maps in November 2011, creating nine Congressional districts including one with a 56.6 percent minority population. U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley would go on to defeat incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano in that district in 2018, becoming the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress.

The 2011 House and Senate redistricting process doubled the number of majority-minority House districts from 10 to 20, and raised the number in the Senate from two to three.