To: The Honorable Michael Moran and the Honorable Stan Rosenberg, Chairs, Massachusetts Joint Committee on Redistricting
From: Cheryl Crawford, Co-Executive Director, MassVOTE
Date: October 25, 2011
Dear Chairmen Rosenberg and Moran,
The new proposed maps for the State House and State Senate dramatically increase the number of majority-minority seats, while keeping many communities together. A few small changes may be appropriate to make the maps even better, but, substantially, these maps mark a major step forward for the cause of voting rights, and I urge you and your colleagues to pass them into law.
As a young girl, I remember family members marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a black woman, a community activist, and a resident of Dorchester, voting rights have always mattered to me. When district lines are drawn to prevent communities from having their say, voting itself means little. That is why the redistricting process has been so important to MassVOTE, and why I am so pleased with the new maps.
For the past ten months, I have met with individuals and organizations across the state as part of Drawing Democracy, a state-wide multi-racial coalition dedicated to promoting a transparent and accountable redistricting process. I heard from people all over the state and they wanted their communities to be united – not split – by district lines. They wanted districts to empower people of color, so that African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos in our state can have a say in state politics commensurate with their numbers in our population.
The State House and State Senate’s proposed maps move us closer than ever before to those goals.
In the State Senate, I want to particularly express MassVOTE’s strong support for the three proposed majority-minority districts, one in Hampden County, and two in Boston. Each of the two Boston districts creates an opportunity for people of color to elect the person of their choice. This is a substantially better choice than creating a single majority-minority district which would pack voters, reducing their overall clout. I note that the Second Suffolk district is improved under this plan by adding more precincts that are majority-African-American and reducing the number of majority-white precincts.
In the State House, MassVOTE is pleased that the number of majority-minority districts has doubled, from 10 to 20. Given that people of color make up roughly 20% of the state population, this new map matches our Commonwealth well.
This process is not over… and for that, too, I am grateful. The two-week comment period – now about half over – invites public participation.
MassVOTE urges you to continue to scrutinize the new maps, to look for ways to increase the percentage of people of color in all these new districts, while maintaining the two senate seats of color in Boston, the additional majority-minority senate seat in Hampden, and the 20 majority-minority seats in the state house.
Thank you for your work so far in this project. The redistricting process will help shape political power in Massachusetts for the next decade. If these maps become law, the Commonwealth will have made a major step forward for voting rights. We look forward as well to seeing the draft US Congressional map, and hope that it expresses the same commitment to racial justice and voting rights by maintaining and improving the Eighth Congressional district, increasing the people of color within that district as much as possible.