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New precinct lines aid MA redistricting effort

STEVE LEBLANC

Massachusetts lawmakers charged with drawing new political lines for Statehouse and congressional seats have received the key building blocks of any new redistricting map: new local precinct boundaries.

Secretary of State William Galvin delivered the redrawn precinct maps to the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee this week based on the new population counts from the 2010 federal census.

As of 2012, Massachusetts will have 2,151 precincts, with an average of 3,043 residents per precinct. That’s based on the latest statewide population of more than 6.5 million.

Of the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth, 27 are gaining precincts, 17 are losing precincts and 307 will keep the same number.

“Cities and towns drew their new precinct lines based on the 2010 Federal Census quickly and efficiently,” Galvin said. “The new precincts went to the Legislature six weeks earlier than they did a decade ago.”

The extra time will come in handy as state lawmakers are faced with the politically dicey task of drawing a new congressional map.

As a result of the census, the state is losing a congressional district. The new map will have to reduce the number of U.S. House seats from 10 to nine. No member of the all-Democratic House delegation has indicated that he or she won’t seek re-election.

Besides drawing lines for those nine congressional seats, the committee must also come up with new lines for all 160 Massachusetts House seats and 40 Massachusetts Senate seats.

State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, Senate chairman of a legislative panel redrawing the districts, said having the new precinct maps completed and in good order “is quite useful” for the redistricting process.

The Redistricting Committee recently completed 13 public hearings on the process. The committee must come up with four maps — a congressional map, a Massachusetts House map, a Massachusetts Senate map and a map for the Governor’s Council districts.

Rosenberg said the next step is to begin analyzing all the testimony from the public hearings and the various map recommendations given to the panel before coming up with its own maps, which then must be approved by lawmakers like any other bill.

There are several deadlines facing Rosenberg and Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston, co-chairman of the redistricting committee, but the two have given themselves an unofficial deadline of the end of November.

“The House chair and I are thinking it would be nice to be finished by Thanksgiving for all four maps,” Rosenberg said.

Although the maps can be amended on the floor of the House or Senate during debate, Rosenberg said he hopes that each map is accepted as is, given the mind-boggling complexity of negotiating such a contentious document.

“It’s our hope that the committee will put out one map and that map will survive a floor debate,” Rosenberg said. “It’s best not to go to conference over maps.”

Communities that gained precincts are Abington, Ashland, Berkley, Bourne, Burlington, Charlton, Dighton, Douglas, Georgetown, Grafton, Granby, Groveland, Merrimac, Milford, Newton, Plainville, Plymouth, Randolph, Raynham, Rutland, Salisbury, Shrewsbury, Stow, Sturbridge, Templeton, Upton and Wellesley.

Communities that lost precincts are Chatham, Chicopee, Dartmouth, Dudley, Everett, Fall River, Gardner, Haverhill, Lee, Lincoln, Marblehead, Mattapoisett, Milton, New Bedford, Norfolk, Orleans and Sandwich.

Associated Press