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Proposed redistricting maps reflect population loss in western Massachusetts

Proposed statehouse districts in Massachusetts following the 2020 Census
Massachusetts state government
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Proposed statehouse districts in Massachusetts following the 2020 Census

Berkshires would lose a House seat, Senate districts shift eastward

New state legislative districts would impact western Massachusetts’ representation on Beacon Hill.

Under the proposed legislative maps released by the redistricting committee the Berkshires would lose a seat in the Massachusetts House.

While the city of Springfield would retain two State Senators, it would have one less House member in the delegation.

Also, because of population declines over the last decade, the cities of Holyoke and Westfield would no longer be fitted into single House districts.

Matt Szafranski, Editor-in-Chief of Western Mass Politics & Insight scrutinized the proposed maps and he spoke with WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill.

Matt Szafranski

Because the population grew slightly better in the Springfield area than it did in the rest of Western Mass, there's not as dramatic a change in that area. There are some big changes West Springfield appears to be moving out of state senator Adam Gomez's district and into State Senator John Velis' district. But for the most part, it's not a a massive shift. One other notable changes within the four counties is that a State Senator Ann Gobi who is in Spencer is actually not does not appear to be representing anymore of handing county and may only have like one or two towns in Hampshire County. Instead, the district of state senator Ryan Fattman, will now cover as far west as Monson, which will be a shift for sure.

Paul Tuthill 

And there had been talk at some point that the city of Springfield might be put into just a single senate district and that has not happened here. It is still divided between two senate districts, one currently represented by Adam Gomez and the other by Senator Eric Lesser.

Matt Szafranski

Yeah, that that change did not end up panning out, I imagined that it was, you know, seen as you know, in a macro sense, unfair that the third largest city in Massachusetts would only get one state senator, whereas many communities that are smaller, I mean, Chicopee is still divided in three ways, for example, can get multiple senators, but there was also some, you know, various, I'm sure that you know, state senator Eric Lesser also would have wanted more of Springfield that's obviously democratic, friendly territory. And by hanging on to as much of it as possible, he was able to take on, you know, more conservative areas like Palmer and Warren, he also took on a more liberal area like South Hadley, but the net result is, is that by my rough, very, very rough estimate between 75 and 80% of the city is now in Senator Gomez district. And, you know, 20 to 25% is in, you know, Senator Lesser's districts. So Springfield will continue to have two state senators. I expect, you know, barring any massive changes during public comment for the next 10 years.

Paul Tuthill

 The Senate districts currently represented by Jo Comerford and Adam Hinds, they will shift further to the east correct is there as they have to pick up more population?

Matt Szafranski

Yeah, I was actually kind of surprised how little of Senator Comerford's district ended up moving over into Senator Hinds' district as his district will go as far east as Southwick in these new maps that makes that district all the more sprawling and the same is true of Senator Comerford's district because she will have more of Worcester County for the first time including places like Athol and Ashburnham, which are quite a field from her hometown of Northampton.

Paul Tuthill 

Let's shift over to the House side, any dramatic changes there, as far as the city of Springfield goes?

Matt Szafranski

Not really I mean, technically speaking, the city does appear to be set to lose a foothold in a state rep district. And there does seem to be some retrenchment from Springfield in a Representative [Angelo] Puppolo's district. So he will it looks like he's going to represent a little bit less of the city and a little bit more of the, you know, outskirts. Senate Representatives Olivera and Finn no longer have a precinct or two in the city. However, Representative Brian Ashe has taken on two precincts bringing him back into the city for the first time in 10 years when he was first elected. He had two precincts in the city. He's getting one of those back and getting a different precinct in the Forest Park area.

Paul Tuthill 

A couple of other interesting features that you pointed out to me. Both the cities of Holyoke and Westfield will no longer have a single state representative.

Matt Szafranski

Yes, both Westfield and Holyoke lost population according to the census figures, so it was no longer sustainable for them to be single, municipal districts. Chicopee is going now be in State Representative Pat Duffy's district. So she will represent a precinct or two, depending on how you define what a precinct is. Given what the way the legislature has been doing the mapmaking and State Representative Kelly Pease who represents Westfield will actually sacrifice one Westfield precinct into West Springfield, but then take on the town of Southampton, which could kind of you know, be an interesting dynamic, Southampton has been starting to move more and more towards the Democrat so that that could potentially become a more competitive seat. Even then it was over the last 10 years when it shifted control twice.

Paul Tuthill 

One of the stated goals of the of the committee that that drew these maps was to try to make the legislature look more like the population of the state, which is diverse. You think they've accomplished that with these maps that they wanted to create more opportunities, they said, for minorities to get to get elected.

Matt Szafranski

In western Massachusetts, I don't know how much more they could really do. I mean, they already know the State Senate district that Senator Adam Gomez has already kind of reflected that the state rep districts in the city have been firmed up to be more minority friendly, but I mean, it already, you know, three out of four of the, you know, what we would consider the state rep districts that are anchored in Springfield are represented by individuals of color, and and Holyoke right now that, you know, their state rep is white, but the city itself is, you know, minority majority. So I don't know how much more they could have done in western Massachusetts. I do think that they, you know, looking at the map, you know, statewide I think that they tried to do that. I'm not sure that they succeeded in a way that might be politically palatable, already starting to see some objections to some state senate districts that were drawn out in the you know, Hazel, Lawrence area, not because they're necessarily don't fit that goal of of giving more opportunity, but in terms of how the communities were grouped together, so it's not a completely without controversy, but maybe not for the reasons that some people thought going into this process.