The Special Joint Committee on Redistricting will provide the first opportunity for the public to weigh in on draft congressional maps at a virtual hearing this morning at 11:00 a.m. The public will be invited to provide public comment, during which Common Cause Massachusetts will advocate for amending the proposed boundaries for Congressional district nine to include both Fall River and New Bedford. Common Cause Massachusetts maintains that the state’s other areas that share the same issues and regional proximity are kept together in the same congressional district.
To watch the hearing, click here.
The following is the prepared testimony that Common Cause Executive Director Geoff Foster will share with the committee.
“Good morning Chair Brownsberger, Chair Moran, and Honorable Committee Members,
My name is Geoff Foster and I’m the executive director at Common Cause Massachusetts.
I want to start by congratulating Chairs Moran and Brownsberger and your staff for conducting a transparent and accessible redistricting processes.
Common Cause Massachusetts is proud to be a steering committee member of the Drawing Democracy Coalition, a coalition of statewide advocacy and civil rights groups that include public policy advocates, political scientists, mapping experts, and community-based organizations with a shared goal of partnering with you to ensure that underrepresented communities have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice who best reflect their needs and interests.
Overall, we are happy with the Congressional maps, except for one area and that’s the proposed separation of Fall River and New Bedford. It is the position of our coalition that Fall River and New Bedford should be complete and united together in one Congressional district to maximize the impact that communities of interest can have in electing and influencing their member of Congress.
When you look across the entire Commonwealth, Gateway cities that share issues and regional proximity are kept in the same Congressional districts: Springfield, Holyoke, and Pittsfield; Lowell, Lawrence, Methuen, and Haverhill; Gardner and Fitchburg; and more.
We respectfully ask this Committee do the same for Fall River and New Bedford; to keep them whole and unite them together in Congressional District 9.
It is very well documented that Fall River and New Bedford have so much in common, the largest concentration of Portuguese Americans in entire the United States, higher populations of people of color, a shared vision for economic development and pandemic recovery, gateway city status, and a long list of shared needs that most other Congressional District 4 communities don’t experience.
As our Unity Maps shows, it is possible to create a Congressional District 9 that includes both New Bedford and Fall River, uniting two gateway cities with so many shared interests, in a way that doesn’t impact the Majority Minority 7th Congressional District to the north.
While you’ll soon hear from many local experts who can speak directly to the benefit of keeping Fall River and New Bedford together in Congressional District 9, I will conclude by saying this: voters should choose their politicians. Politicians shouldn’t choose their voters. There has been much coverage in the press over the last week that has given platform to the opinions of federal, state, and local lawmakers. It was unfortunate to see some of this play out with a tone of finality, even though the public input process had not been concluded and the map hasn’t been voted on yet.
We are so appreciative of today’s public hearing as it will give a platform to the voices of everyday people who have been working and organizing to empower New Bedford and Fall River for the last decade and will again in the decade to come. With much work to be done for Fall River and New Bedford before Congress and the General Court, we hope their voices will be heard loud and clear today as they best represent the communities of interest, and the will of the people.