Say goodbye to state Sen. Becca Rausch, residents of the Attleboros, and say hello to Foxboro's Paul Feeney.
No, you haven’t moved, but if proposed redistricting by the state Legislature is approved, Rausch, D-Needham, will see North Attleboro and the precincts in Attleboro she represents switch to the district now represented by Feeney, a Democrat. Currently, the city is split between two districts, with Rausch’s including Wards 1, 2 and 3A and the rest represented by Feeney. Under the proposed map, Rausch's district would continue to encompass the towns of Plainville, Norfolk and Wrentham. She would also pick up towns and precincts to the north and west, including all those in her hometown of Needham.
Feeney would, in turn, give up the towns of Seekonk and Rehoboth, which would join a new senatorial district that includes communities currently represented by Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton. Feeney’s old district would also lose the towns of Medfield and Walpole but gain all of the precincts of Sharon.
“I am eager to learn more about the communities and the additional residents I have the opportunity to represent in a newly drawn legislative district,” Feeney said in an emailed statement to The Foxboro Reporter. “Losing communities that I have had the honor of representing since I took office is not a transition that I take lightly. I have made many deep partnerships and lasting friendships, and I feel deeply connected to the people that make our communities tick and have become attached to the unique character of each of the towns I represent. This process is never easy, but it is necessary for democracy.”
The Joint Redistricting Committee of the state Legislature unveiled the draft maps for all 200 House and Senate districts at the Statehouse Tuesday at a virtual public hearing on the decennial redistricting. This year, the process was delayed because the COVID-19 pandemic held up the traditional spring release of U.S. Census population data until mid-August.
The proposed districts incorporate new census data that showed the state has grown older, less white and more populated during the past decade.
The joint committee will hold a virtual public hearing on the maps Friday.
“These are draft maps,” Democratic Sen. Will Brownsberger, co-chair of the committee said. “We are hear to listen.”
In general, the population in the eastern portion of the state has increased while the population in western Massachusetts has stalled or dropped, increasing the geographic size of its districts.
Districts all have to be roughly equal in population.
The Senate has also worked to create districts that will increase the opportunity for people of color to elect senators of their choice, including in Springfield, Boston and Lawrence, Brownsberger said.
The maps received mixed reviews from the Drawing Democracy Coalition, an umbrella group of advocacy organizations.
The group praised the House map, saying it increased representation for people of color, immigrants and low-income communities.
Citizens will have until Oct. 18 to comment on the proposed district changes at https://malegislature.gov/Redistricting/Contact. The maps can be seen at https://malegislature.gov/Redistricting/ProposedDistricts/House.
Rausch's office said she would have no comment until the district maps are finalized.
In his email, Feeney added, “Serving in the Massachusetts State Senate, and representing the communities of the Bristol & Norfolk district is an absolute honor and a privilege. My goal from day one, that will continue as long as I have the honor of being in the Senate, has been to serve all of my constituents at all times, no matter where they live or where they come from, to the best of my ability with the dignity, transparency, honesty, hard-work, and dedication that they deserve and expect from their state senator.”
He added, “To any residents of the additional precincts that may be added to the Bristol and Norfolk State Senate District who I would have the opportunity, the duty, and the privilege, to represent in the Massachusetts State Senate beginning in 2023 should I be re-elected to the Senate, I will continue to make my very best effort to represent you faithfully and compassionately as I have done in the past.”
Area House districts including that of state Rep. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, which includes Foxboro, appear to be mostly unchanged.
The new district boundaries have to be approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor before the 2022 state elections.
Data from the 2020 census show Massachusetts is gradually becoming more diverse in its population.
Those identifying as white alone in Massachusetts — not Hispanic or Latino — declined from 76.1% in 2010 to 67.6% in 2020.
During the same decade, the percentage of the population identifying as Hispanic or Latino grew from 9.6% in 2010 to 12.6% in 2020. The Black and African American population (non-Hispanic) increased slightly from 6% in 2010 to 6.5% in 2020. The Asian population also ticked up from 5.3% to 7.2%.
Those identifying as two or more races (not Hispanic or Latino) more than doubled from 1.9% in 2010 to 4.7% in 2020.
The total population for Massachusetts increased from more than 6.5 million in 2010 to just over 7 million, making it the 15th most populous state and ensuring it retains all nine of its existing seats in the U.S. House.
New maps for congressional districts are expected to come out later this fall. Foxboro is part of the 4th Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Newton.