BOSTON — Lawmakers are awaiting the release of new political maps this week, which are likely to shake up legislative districts across the state.
On Tuesday, a redistricting committee is anticipated to make public details of redrawn Massachusetts House and Senate districts based on the 2020 Census count.
The expectation is that major changes will be made to some legislative districts as the committee works to ensure there will be more minority representation in certain regions.
The population in Massachusetts increased from about 6.5 million in 2010 to just over 7 million last year, making it the 15th most populous state in the nation, according to newly released Census data. Most of that growth came in the eastern part of the state, notably in the North of Boston region.
Last week, a delegation of lawmakers representing the Merrimack Valley wrote to Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, and Sen. William Brownsberger, D-Belmont, chairman of the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting, urging them not to split up Gateway communities as they redraw the maps.
In the letter, Rep. Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill, said they have “great concern” the new political boundaries will carve up one or more legislative districts in the Merrimack Valley and “dilute the voices of our constituents.”
“Gateway cities have a population that is more diverse than the Commonwealth as a whole, and it is vital that these residents’ voices and political power aren’t split, diluted, or packed,” the lawmakers wrote.
They called on leaders to base the redesigned maps on total population, not eligible voting age, which they said would ensure more equity and representation in their communities.
“Under citizen voting age population data, children, undocumented immigrants, and lawful permanent residents are ignored, and thus lose the right to proper representation they are entitled to,” the lawmakers wrote.
In outlining the request, they said basing the maps on the population of voting-age eligible residents will hurt minority communities, many of which have a sizable number of young people who will be of voting age within the next decade.
“The state population has grown more and more diverse, and by ignoring all residents under 18 the Legislature would be disproportionately undercounting minority members of the community,” they wrote. “This diminishes the voice that these communities have in the state Senate.”
Others who signed the letter are Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, and Reps. Linda Campbell, D-Methuen, Lenny Mirra, R-Georgetown, Frank Moran, D-Lawrence, Marcos Devers, D-Lawrence and Christina Minicucci, D-North Andover.
Vargas is running for the First Essex District seat held by Sen. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, and his chances of winning could be affected by any changes to the district, especially if part of Haverhill is moved into another Senate district. DiZoglio is running for state auditor.
Meanwhile, Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini and members of the Haverhill City Council also wrote to the committee last week, urging them not to split the city as they craft the new state Senate districts.
“On behalf of our constituents and advocates, we ask that you please consider keeping Haverhill intact, within one Senate district entirely, as it is now,” they wrote.
The new political maps expected to be rolled out Tuesday are also expected to shake up the Second Essex and Middlesex Senate district held by Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, as well as the First Essex and Middlesex district held by Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester.
House districts in the North of Boston region would also see changes.
The U.S. Constitution requires states to redraw congressional districts each decade to account for changes in population. The numbers also guide the drawing of state legislative districts and local election precincts.
While boundaries of congressional districts may also shift, Massachusetts will not see a net change in its representation in Congress, based on the 2020 population count. Its nine-member delegation to the House of Representatives will remain that size for at least another decade.
There are 160 legislative districts in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, with each lawmaker representing about 40,000 people. There are 40 districts in the state Senate, with each representing about 159,000 people.
In the Merrimack Valley and North Shore, a number of communities outpaced the state’s 7.9% growth rate.
Lawrence saw the largest gains, adding 12,766 new residents from 2010 to 2020. That growth boosted its population by 16.7% to 89,123. It is now the state’s 11th largest city.
Other communities in the region also saw double-digit growth, including Haverhill, Methuen, Lynn, Salisbury and Andover.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.