Massachusetts House Approves New Redistricting Maps for 2022 ElectionsOct 28, 2021 07:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson
State Representative Michael J. Soter (R-Bellingham) recently joined with his colleagues to support the establishment of new district maps for the House of Representatives that will take effect for the 2022 state elections.
House Bill 4210, An Act relative to establishing representative districts in the General Court, was given initial approval on a vote of 158-1 in the House of Representatives on October 21. The bill now requires Senate approval and enactment in both branches before it can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker for his review and signature.
Rep. Soter noted that the new legislative districts outlined in House Bill 4210 reflect the population changes identified by the 2020 U.S. Census. Legislators are required to redraw the districts every 10 years based on the Census results to ensure a roughly equal number of people reside in each district. With Massachusetts’ population increasing to 7,029,917, the size of each Representative’s district has grown to 43,937 compared to 40,923 in 2011, the last year the maps were redrawn.
Soter currently represents the 8th Worcester District, which is comprised of all precincts in Bellingham, Blackstone, Millville, and Uxbridge. Beginning in 2022, the district will be comprised of all voting precincts in Bellingham, Blackstone, and Millville, as well as three of the four precincts in Uxbridge and one precinct in Medway.
Soter stated that he is disheartened as a result of losing precinct one in Uxbridge. However, he welcomes the addition of precinct one in Medway. He explained that he will be committed to working hard for those constituents in Medway, and looks forward to representing them in 2022.
Soter noted that the new district boundaries for the House of Representatives are being set now in advance of a November 8 deadline because House candidates must reside in their district for one year prior to their election. New district maps for the Massachusetts Senate, Governor’s Council, and Congress will be finalized in the coming weeks, as candidates for these offices are not subject to the same one-year residency requirement.
Members of the Joint Special Committee on Redistricting held 20 hearings and created a website to solicit input from the public on the new House district maps. The committee took those comments into consideration when filing its final recommendations on October 19, noting that it worked to ensure that the new districts “comply with all constitutional and legal requirements,” including prior federal decisions and rulings issued by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
According to Soter, cities and towns traditionally redraw their local voting precincts by June of the year following the Census, but the challenges posed by COVID-19 resulted in final Census figures not being released until September. As a result of this delay, the process has been reversed this year, with the state taking the first steps to redraw the maps and cities and towns expected to revise their precinct boundaries based on the state maps.