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After Mass. Census Comes Redistricting

This article is more than 12 years old.

Cape Cod and the Berkshires have lost population in the last 10 years. Worcester County and the islands, meanwhile, have grown the most. Those are some of the headlines from the release of the Massachusetts Census Tuesday, a release with some unexpected drama.

The drama came from Secretary of State William Galvin. He held a press conference to announce that Boston had lost population in the last 10 years. Immediately, Mayor Thomas Menino's office jumped in to point out that the city has grown. Galvin's staff checked their numbers, and by the afternoon, Galvin was holding a second press conference. The lesson?

Secretary of State William Galvin releases updated Massachusetts Census figures Tuesday. (Fred Thys/WBUR)
Secretary of State William Galvin releases updated Census figures Tuesday. (Fred Thys/WBUR)

"Always check your math," Galvin said.

Now that the numbers are in, cities and towns have until June to redraw their precincts. Once that's done, the state Legislature can start redrawing congressional districts.

Massachusetts is losing a district. Galvin knows first-hand that the legislators redrawing districts can expect a lot of pressure. He served on one the committees that redrew the districts the last time Massachusetts lost representation in Congress.

"I'm quite sure that every member of Congress is sitting with their calculator, adding up all the towns on the website and figuring out what their population is, and taking out their wish list, what they'd like, and their dispose list, what they'd like to get rid of, and figuring out where they want to go," Galvin said.

The Census number don't immediately reveal which congressional district will disappear, because besides the decline in the populations of the Cape and the Berkshires, the pattern of growth and decline in Massachusetts seems to be a patchwork. Every congressional district has winners and losers.

For example, Fall River lost more people than any other community in the state. Barney Frank and Jim McGovern are the city's two congressmen. But McGovern also represents booming Worcester, and Frank represents such fast-growing southeastern Massachusetts communities as Middleborough, Raynham, Berkeley, Dighton and Dartmouth.

Politicians try to shed communities that vote against them, and keep communities that support them. This year, one member of Congress will lose his or her seat.

The numbers don't predict which member will lose their seat, but they tell other stories, for instance, that some parts of the state are losing people. The Cape, for one. Galvin said it's because so many Cape retirees were still in their Florida homes on April 1, the day of the Census.

"You have a lot of people who spend the winter months in Florida, [who] for tax purposes, might well be residents of Florida," he said.

But our own reporting has also found that families have been leaving the Cape because it costs too much to live there and jobs are getting scarce. The Berkshires are also emptying out.

The Census tells a different story about which communities are growing. Asians now make up 5 percent of the population, blacks 6 percent and Latinos 9 percent.

The Census won't reveal until Thursday where the growth in black, Asian and Latino communities has been the greatest. That information will be key to redistricting, because the Legislature can pretty much do what it wants in redistricting, except dilute the voting power of minorities.

Boston's political clout is likely to grow. Its population grew more than any other community in Massachusetts over the last 10 years. Galvin attributed the growth to Menino's aggressive push for more housing.

After Boston, Worcester grew the most. Galvin said it is because Worcester is attracting a Latino community, with large families, and because the city's colleges and universities pushed hard to get their students counted.


This program aired on March 23, 2011.

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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