The Massachusetts Legislature wasn’t designed for someone like me — an immigrant and person of color who grew up in the projects in Lawrence — to hold a position of power. Prior to 2011, Lawrence did not have proper representation in the Legislature, nor did many other communities of color across the Commonwealth.
So how is it possible that only a decade later, I am a five-term incumbent for the 17th Essex District, the first person of color to hold this seat and be a member of House leadership? It’s because the 2011 redistricting process maximized representation for communities of color across the Commonwealth and paved the way for someone like me to run and win. In August, following the release of data from the 2020 Census, Massachusetts will have the opportunity to build on this progress.
During the last redistricting cycle, under the leadership of then-Senate chair Stan Rosenberg and House chair Mike Moran, the Redistricting Committee worked closely with community organizers and leaders, including members of the Drawing Democracy Coalition, to make the process fair and transparent. One of their driving goals was to ensure that those who are historically underrepresented in government — communities of color, immigrants, and low-income voters — have equitable representation and the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.
The resulting maps were a success and met the criteria of the Voting Rights Act, which protects voters from discrimination based on race, color, or membership in a linguistic minority. The Seventh Congressional District became the first majority-minority district in state history and is now represented by Representative Ayanna Pressley. Additionally, the number of state legislative districts containing a majority of a racial or linguistic minority population doubled. That included my district.
I’m proud to be the first person of color to represent my district, but there’s no way that someone like me would have been elected if not for redistricting. I’m proud that Lawrence, and many other municipalities across the Commonwealth, finally got the representation that reflects the people being represented, but we can do better.
This year, we must build on the success of 2011 and ensure a transparent, fair redistricting process, where every voice is heard. In order to do that, we need the public to get involved.
Here’s how it works: The Redistricting Committee is gathering public input about how the new districts should be drawn. You can check our committee website for a list of upcoming regional hearings and sign up to testify. We want you to tell us the story of your community — what locations, landmarks, and gathering places are most important to keep together and why? You can also get in touch with the Drawing Democracy Coalition, which is gathering community-of-interest maps from grass-roots organizations to ultimately develop a unity map, which they will present to the Redistricting Committee.
The committee will use the information we gather from the public and community organizations, as well as census data that will be released in August and September, to draw new maps for the Massachusetts House and Senate, the Governor’s Council, and Congress.
We will then present these draft maps to the public for feedback, make any necessary changes, and then submit the final maps to the governor. This all has to be finalized by Nov. 8, 2021, one calendar year before the 2022 general election. This timeline is critical for ensuring that voters have enough time to learn their new districts and incumbents, and for candidates to prepare their campaigns.
This is a challenging process, but I’m confident that under the leadership of state Senator Will Brownsberger and Representative Mike Moran, in collaboration with community leaders and organizations, and with maximum public engagement, we will get this right.
Let’s work together to ensure that our democracy is reflective of the vibrant diversity of our communities and that every voice is heard.
State Representative Frank Moran represents the 17th Essex District and serves as Third Division chair.