Mass. Loses Congressional Seat

By Jess Bidgood

Dec. 21, 2010

BOSTON -- Massachusetts will lose one of its 10 seats in Congress -- meaning the state is now in for what could be a difficult redistricting debate.

The loss comes as the seats in the 435-member body are reapportioned to reflect population changes shown by the 2010 Census

It's unclear whether any of the state's sitting U.S. representatives plan to step down at the end of their next terms. Reps. Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch are considered possible candidates to face Sen. Scott Brown in his 2012 re-election campaign. There has also been speculation that Rep. Barney Frank, who has served in Congress since 1980, may be ready to step down soon.

State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, chair of the Senate's redistricting committee, told WGBH's Emily Rooney on Monday that certain departures could make redistricting easier. The loss of that seat also means the remaining nine districts will need to be redrawn so each picks up 70,000 new residents.

Rosenberg says it's not yet clear what logic will be used to redistrict the state. "There's one theory that says, 'Given that we're a relatively small state, why do we have four -- and starting in January five -- members of Congress living within 10 miles of the State House?" Rosenberg said.

Another view recommends redistricting based on population losses in Western Massachusetts. "Let's go from an East-West orientation to a North-South orientation, start at the New York border and the Connecticut border and go until you hit the magic number and draw a line North-South."

Rosenberg says the House and Senate redistricting committees will hold public hearings and field hearings as they make their decisions on redistricting. "There's a lot of ideas and we're going to be having as open and public a process as we possibly can," Rosenberg said. 

But Pam Wilmot, executive director of the fair-government watchdog group Common Cause, says past efforts to redraw the state's election map has been highly political, with leaders accused to doing the work behind closed doors and without independent input.

"There were some hearings held, but very difficult for advocates to meet with the legislature," Wilmot said. "Everything was done by consultants in the House behind closed doors, very little feedback. Maps came out on Friday and votes on Monday or Tuesday."

In the 1990 redistricting, for example, then-Gov. William Weld refused to sign redistricting legislation that didn't have two districts that Republicans could win.

Massachusetts eked by to keep its 10 seats after the 2000 census. At its maximum, the state held 16 seats in 1910 -- but that number has dwindled as the United States' population has shifted West and South.


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