On October 19, 2021, the Massachusetts House and Senate unveiled the newest - and likely final - versions of their legislative maps. These maps, which span 160 House districts and 40 Senate districts, reveal what representation on Beacon Hill will look like for the next 10 years.
Of crucial note is the increased number of Minority Opportunity districts. Minority Opportunity districts are districts in which white residents do not make up the majority of the population. These districts are specifically created to help empower those that have long seen their voices ignored in the political process, like Black and brown, low income, and immigrant individuals. In the House, there are 33 Minority Opportunity districts, up from the 20 created 10 years ago. This includes new incumbent-free districts in cities like Framingham and Lawrence. In the Senate, there are six Minority Opportunity districts, up from the three created 10 years ago. This includes districts that strengthen the political power of Black residents in Brockton, and Latino residents in the Merrimack Valley.
But these gains were not easy to achieve. Last week, the state released the first draft of their maps. While we were generally pleased with the House's map, we were concerned the the Senate's map divided Latino communities of interest in the Merrimack Valley, as well as Black communities of interest in the Brockton area. We voiced these concerns alongside our partners in the Drawing Democracy Coalition during a public hearing held by the legislature on October 15. Over the weekend, our partners at Lawyers for Civil Rights applied additional pressure on the state, making the legal case to protect said communities in the Merrimack Valley and Brockton.
And it worked. On Tuesday, when the state released their new maps, they addressed our concerns in the Merrimack Valley and Brockton area. While not perfect, these new maps take critical steps to better serve communities of interest that have routinely seen their needs ignored. As advocates across Massachusetts reflected on this moment, Beth Huang of the Massachusetts Voter Table said it best: “Often we wonder, is it worth it to testify? Is it worth it to show up? And the answer is yes.”
Though our work is far from complete, and years - if not decades - of advocacy remain, advocates and residents alike should be proud of this moment. We came together, recognized an injustice, spoke out against that injustice, and achieved change. Our democracy worked.