Redistricting is the process of redrawing electoral district boundaries. It is meant to ensure that every person has fair representation at the local, state, and federal levels. Census data collected every ten years are used to draw new districts, each with about the same number of people.

The ACLU of Massachusetts is a member of the Drawing Democracy Coalition, a group of organizations, civil rights lawyers, public policy advocates, data and mapping experts, and political scientists. This group collaborates to ensure that underrepresented communities have the opportunity to elect candidates who best reflect their needs and interests.

Importance of Redistricting

How district lines are drawn influences who runs for public office and who is elected. Elected representatives make decisions that are important to our lives, from ensuring safety in schools to adopting immigration policies. Once drawn, these district boundaries are in place for the next ten years, and their policy impacts can last well beyond that.

Although redistricting is based on the idea of “one person, one vote,” it hasn’t always happened this way in Massachusetts. In 2001, then Speaker of the House Thomas Finneran diluted the power of Black voters in Boston, lied about his role, and went to prison for perjury. Because of the 2001 discriminatory redistricting process, in 2011, community organizers and leaders worked hand-in-hand with state lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Redistricting to develop a transparent and fair redistricting process.

This collaboration led to the doubling of districts that contain a majority of a racial or linguistic minority population in the state legislature and the creation of the first majority BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) Congressional District, which Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley now represents.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I get involved?

Q.How can I get involved?
A.

Because redistricting can advance equity in political representation, community input is important. Community members can establish their redistricting goals and organize and mobilize residents in coordination with the Drawing Democracy Coalition. Check out the Coalition toolkit to find more information on how to get involved.

2. Who is in charge of redistricting?

Q.Who is in charge of redistricting?
A.

In 2021, the Massachusetts state legislature is responsible for drawing congressional districts and state legislative districts. The state legislature’s Joint Committee on Redistricting, chaired by Senator Will Brownsberger and Representative Mike Moran, leads that process. The committee will host public hearings and draft the statewide map for approval—first by the committee and then by both chambers of the legislature. Finally, the governor must approve these maps.

Local governments are responsible for redrawing their own districts. In 2022, city councils will draw municipal districts.

3. What is the timeline?

Q.What is the timeline?
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1. Public Hearings - Summer/Fall 2021

The state legislature’s Joint Committee on Redistricting will announce its process and public hearing dates. The hearings are an opportunity for community members to tell their stories and present a case for keeping their communities united. There may be hearings before the release of data from the Census Bureau or before any draft maps are displayed. 

2. Delivery of Census Data - September 2021

The Census Bureau is expected to deliver census results to the states by September 30, 2021. This is the basic data used for all redistricting. If community organizations are already engaged in census outreach, they can begin to engage neighbors on issues that are important to them. Collecting stories, issues, and contact information is one way to start preparing for redistricting.

3. Draft Maps - Fall 2021

Draft maps will be released with an opportunity for public comment and for community leaders to weigh in before any votes are taken to adopt a final map. Having access to the draft map, as well as the underlying data, will be important for any analysis. Some of the things to consider are whether the maps incorporate community suggestions, respect neighborhood areas, and adhere to the Voting Rights Act and other redistricting criteria. 

4. Map Approval - Deadline: November 8, 2021

For the new maps to go into effect, legislators will have to vote on and approve them. The Coalition will directly lobby and educate legislators about the draft maps before this vote occurs. After the maps are approved, they can be assessed for potential legal challenges. If the maps are unsatisfactory, advocates can challenge them in courts, for example by arguing that they violate the Voting Rights Act. 

5. Elections with New Maps - begin in November 2022

The new maps will be used in subsequent elections for the next ten years. The long-lasting effect of redistricting is one of the most important reasons for communities to be involved.