State lawmakers released a proposed new map of Massachusetts congressional districts Monday.
The map avoids any large-scale dramatic shifts in district lines, in large part because the state retained the same number of congressional districts — nine. That sidesteps the need to combine districts and potentially force incumbent lawmakers to square off against each other.
One point of contention came in the state’s 4th Congressional District, currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss.
The Drawing Democracy Coalition, an umbrella group of advocacy organizations, faulted the map for failing to combine Fall River and New Bedford into the same district.
The group had argued that the similar immigrant communities in the two cities should be placed in the same district to increase their political clout and provide a better opportunity for voters there to elect candidates of their choice.
While the map proposed by the Legislature unites Fall River, it puts the entire city in the 4th District and keeps New Bedford in the 9th District. As a result, the group said, Fall River residents might continue to see their voting power weakened by wealthier suburbs of Boston, like Brookline, Newton and Wellesley.
“The Coalition for Social Justice and Drawing Democracy spoke with many community members about redistricting, and we heard loud and clear that they didn’t want Fall River to be split between two congressional districts, and that they wanted Fall River and New Bedford to be united in the same district,” said Dax Crocker, Democracy HUB Coordinator for the Coalition for Social Justice, a Drawing Democracy Coalition Steering Committee member.
Auchincloss welcomed the proposed new congressional district lines.
“Though the basic contours of the 4th District persist, there is one major change,” Auchincloss said in a written statement. “I am thrilled that all of Fall River will now be in the district.”
Auchincloss said he’s worked with local officials and state lawmakers to ensure Fall River bounces back from the pandemic.
“The voters of the fourth will continue to come from urban, suburban, and farmland communities. They will continue to vote both blue and red. They will continue to commute to both Boston and Providence," he said.
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, 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 Special Joint Committee on Redistricting. which came up with the proposed map, is to have each district home to the same number of people — about 781,100 each.