Chelsea’s Senate district likely to become majority-minority

A new statewide report done by a Boston University professor for Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston shows major population shifts in the Greater Boston area that could potentially switch Chelsea’s entire state delegation into majority-minority districts when new lines are drawn later this year.

Already, the Chelsea/Charlestown state representative seat (2nd Suffolk), held by Rep. Dan Ryan, has been a majority-minority district since the last re-draw of the lines in 2012. That district also increased in minority representation, according to the report.

The report puts the Chelsea state senate seat, held by Sen. Sal DiDomenico, into majority-minority status for the first time. Meanwhile, the 16th Suffolk District, held by State Rep. Jessica Giannino, is a district marked as nearly majority-minority and could be a new district depending on how lines are drawn. That district represents mostly Revere, but carries the Prattville section of Chelsea as well.

The report was commissioned by Lawyers for Civil Rights – a voting rights group involved statewide – and performed by BU professor Maxwell Palmer. The purpose was to look at population shifts and how they would affect the upcoming redistricting efforts later this year as it relates to adding majority-minority district seats. Simply put, majority-minority districts are those in which the non-white population is greater than the white population.

Maxwell found that the state has increased in population by 5.3 percent, but Suffolk County has grown 10.3 percent and Middlesex County by 6.5 percent.

“This growth was primarily driven by increases in the minority population,” read the report. “Statewide, the white population shrank from 76.1 percent to 70.3 percent, the Black population increased from 6 percent to 7.1 percent, and the Hispanic population increased from 9.6 percent to 12.4 percent. The minority population grew at a higher rate than the white population in every county of the state except Nantucket and Dukes counties. Overall, population growth was highest in Greater Boston and the North Shore.”

That population shift has been most noticeable in the northern parts of Boston like Charlestown and urban cities just beyond, like Chelsea and Everett. In Everett, their state representative seat switched to majority-minority by population for the first time, according to the report, and that also drove the Senate seat to also become majority-minority. That state senate seat is held by Sen. Sal DiDomenico and also encompasses Charlestown, Chelsea, parts of Cambridge and parts of Allston. The study showed the minority representation for that senate district went from about 46 percent to 51.2 percent.

It was the only Senate district that changed in the study, though the Second Essex & Middlesex was identified as a near majority-minority district – at 47.7 percent of the represented population.

There were three Senate districts that were majority-minority under the 2012 Redistricting plan, and all three remained so as well in the study.

“As someone who has been actively engaged in my communities, this is not a surprise to me and should not be for anyone else,” he said. “I have long known that Black and brown residents make up the majority of my district, and I look forward to continue listening and responding to the needs of my constituents.  I am very proud to represent one of the most racially and ethnically diverse districts in the state, and I have always said our diversity is our strength. From the very first day I joined the Massachusetts Senate, the number one priority of my office has been serving those who for far too long felt like they didn’t have a voice in their state government as well as addressing many longstanding inequities in our neighborhoods.”

DiDomenico has made a point over the last year during his 10th anniversary in the State Senate to stress that he has always strove to better represent the vulnerable and those historically not at the table in policymaking.

“The work of my Senate office—whether it be the policies I have championed or the assistance we provide to my constituents— has always centered the most vulnerable among us, marginalized communities, and those who have historically been left behind,” he said. “The policies I’ve supported over the years and stances I’ve taken weren’t always the most popular, but they were always what I knew in my heart was right. As always, I want all of my constituents in every neighborhood I represent to know that they have a strong voice in the State House addressing their concerns and needs.”

In the House, the 2nd Suffolk seat was identified as one of 20 majority-minority seats in 2012, but it grew in minority representation since that time.

The report indicated that the 2nd Suffolk had gone from about 55 percent majority-minority to almost 60 percent (59.4 percent) majority minority. Rep. Ryan said there has definitely been population growth since the last redistricting effort, and he looks forward to that process once the official Census 2020 numbers arrive later this spring/summer.

“There has definitely been population gain within the Greater Boston area and the Second Suffolk in particular,” he said. “The official 2020 Census numbers are the only ones that matter. Until they are finalized it is too soon to venture a guess as what a new district will look like. The certainty is that I will work to do what is best for Chelsea and Charlestown.”

Three other House districts were also identified as nearly majority-minority, and that included the House district in Revere and Chelsea – represented by new Rep. Giannino. Like Everett, that district took a major jump in minority representation, going from about 35 percent to 45.1 percent minority representation. It is identified along with a district in Jamaica Plain and a district in Plymouth as potential majority-minority districts during redistricting.

The Redistricting process will not begin until full Census 2020 data is revealed later this spring and summer. The process typically takes a year to complete within the Legislature, likely finishing in early 2022.

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