Senate has greater flexibility to keep communities of interest together and empower communities of color
BOSTON – As the deadline for finalizing Massachusetts’ redistricting maps rapidly approaches, the Drawing Democracy Coalition is outlining a legal rationale for the State Senate to join Brockton, Randolph, Stoughton and Avon into one district. Yesterday, Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston (LCR), a steering committee member of the Drawing Democracy Coalition, sent a letter to Senate President Karen Spilka and Redistricting Committee Co-Chair Senator William Brownsberger arguing that the Senate is legally able – and potentially required by law – to do this based on redistricting principles that dictate keeping communities of interest together.
“The Legislature can and must recognize and respect the communities of interest that exist in the Brockton/Randolph/Stoughton area. Residents of those cities are tied together through a shared interest in economic mobility and home ownership, along with common immigrant backgrounds,” said Oren Sellstrom, Litigation Director for LCR, who co-authored the letter with LCR Executive Director Iván Espinoza-Madrigal. “While it is also the case that those areas have a relatively high percentage of Black residents, recognition of the community of interest that binds them together is in no way impermissible for that reason. To the contrary, refusing to consider those interests based on an overly-cautious concern that this would constitute impermissible racial gerrymandering would itself be a violation of the law.”
The letter outlines a legal rationale that supports the overwhelming input from community members, advocates and elected officials at last week’s redistricting hearing calling for the Senate to reconsider their proposed districts for the Brockton area.
“The proposed Senate districts for Randolph, Brockton and Stoughton are unjust and unfair. They do not allow room for equitable representation, overlook the needs of the largest BIPOC communities on the South Shore in the midst of a pandemic and dilute their voting power,” said Randolph Town Councilor Katrina Huff-Larmond. The Senate has an obligation to redraw these districts in a way that will build trust and encourage BIPOC folks to see opportunities to make social change.”
“The legislature missed a vital opportunity to ensure that the BIPOC communities of Brockton, Randolph and Stoughton can elect candidates of their choice,” said Anabel Santiago, lead organizer for the Brockton Interfaith Community. “It just makes sense to follow Drawing Democracy’s recommendation to combine these three communities into one Senate district because of their shared interests around homeownership and economic mobility. Instead, the Senate proposed combining Brockton and Randolph with less similar communities, making it harder for BIPOC voters to have their voices heard among supermajorities of white voters. The Senate should reconsider these districts and give the people of Brockton, Randolph and Stoughton the representation they deserve.”
The Drawing Democracy Coalition is also urging members of the public to continue making their voices heard about the proposed maps by submitting public comment to the Redistricting Committee. The deadline is today, Monday, October 18th, at 5 pm. Drawing Democracy also has letter writing campaigns set up for residents to ask their legislators to support the coalition’s recommendations for the State Senate and State House.