A proposal to keep its Senate district majority white has left some people of color feeling ignored.
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
Over the past two decades, the once mostly white city of Brockton has transformed into New England’s only majority-Black city and the home of some of the country’s largest Haitian and Cape Verdean populations.
But not a single one of its lawmakers on Beacon Hill is a person of color. The disconnect made it a prime candidate in advocates’ minds for a significant redraw of its political boundaries in the once-a-decade redistricting process. Yet while the House is looking to add a new majority-minority district in the city, Senate leaders this week proposed keeping the 105,000-person city’s lone state Senate district virtually untouched, stunning those hoping to further empower Brockton’s growing minority communities.
Under maps unveiled Tuesday, Brockton would remain clustered with mostly white suburbs south of Boston, all of which its current senator — a white Democrat from Brockton who had previously been rapped by the Senate’s ethics committee — handily won last year to fend off a Cape Verdean challenger in their Democratic primary. The decision stoked an already heated debate about the best way to draw political lines to both account for Massachusetts’ growing populations of color and open opportunities for them to select their preferred candidates within a Legislature that is far whiter than the state as a whole. “This is just another moment that shows there is a disconnect for people being able to really see and hear Brockton,” said William Dickerson, executive director of Brockton Interfaith Community. “We have to do better if we’re going to say we continue to care about all people. The needle isn’t moving fast enough for the people who are suffering.”
Creating a majority-minority district is no guarantee a person of color will be elected in it. But expanding these districts weighed heavily in mapmakers’ decisions, including in the Senate, where officials proposed creating two new districts: one anchored by the Latino-majority city of Lawrence and another that includes Chelsea, Everett, Charlestown, and Cambridge. But it offered only modest changes to the district that includes Brockton. The district would lose parts of mostly white Easton and gain a greater share of East Bridgewater, encompassing a suburb that is 88 percent white and voted for Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election.
The rest of the proposed district — featuring the towns of Halifax, Hanson, Hanover, Plympton, and Whitman — would remain the same. Roughly 53 percent of the district’s total population would be white, according to Senate data.
A coalition including the ACLU of Massachusetts, MassVOTE, and other groups had pushed lawmakers to instead create a Brockton-centered district that included Randolph, Avon, and Stoughton. Under that map, advocates said, 34 percent of the population would be white and 45 percent of the population would be Black. It would more closely reflect Brockton’s own makeup — even as white voters would have still made up the largest voting bloc.
The 40-member Senate currently has no Black members. “It still would have been a chance to create a strong Black district, especially in an area that has long seen white individuals represent Black individuals,” said Alex Psilakis, policy and communications manager for MassVOTE.
But Senator William N. Brownsberger, who led the chamber’s redistricting process, said the Brockton district was “not there quantitatively.”
“It is diverse, but there was not one particular race that we could build a voting rights argument around,” the Belmont Democrat said. “The law requires us to draw districts without regard to race. You cannot discriminate based on race unless there’s a Voting Rights Act violation to be remedied.”
Click here to finish the article from the Boston Globe - October 13, 2021.