Part Two Legislative Redistricting

The Massachusetts Legislature is charged with the task of re-drawing congressional districts and state senatorial, representative and councilor districts.

Congressional Districts

Congress apportions the 435 House seats among the States on its receipt of federal census data every 10 years. At present and based on the 2000 federal census, Massachusetts has ten members in the United States House of Representatives. Each Representative is chosen from a district which is formed on the basis of the number of legal residents in the district. The number of legal residents is derived from the federal census which is taken at the beginning of each decade. However, based on the total population of the United States as determined by the 2010 federal census, Massachusetts will lose a Representative and instead have only nine Representatives.

The Bureau of the Census, a federal agency, is responsible for counting the number of persons in the United States. The federal census is conducted every ten years. The President then transmits to the Congress the number of United States Representatives to which each state is entitled. Within fifteen days after receiving the President's statement the Clerk of the House transmits a certificate to the Governor of each state stating the number of United States Representatives to which that state is entitled. It is then the duty of the state to redraw congressional districts. Unlike state legislative districts, courts have required congressional districts to contain as nearly as practicable, an equal number of residents, corresponding to the number of United States Representatives certified to the state by Congress. In Massachusetts, this task is carried out by the state legislature. The new districts take effect for the next congressional election after the federal census (e.g. 2012).

Legal Citations:

U.S. Const., Art. I, 2; and Amend. XIV, 2

White v. Weiser, 412 U. S. 783 (1973)

Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533 (1964)

Massachusetts General Laws chapter 57, section 1

State Legislative Districts

The Massachusetts Legislature is responsible for redrawing state representative, state senatorial and governor's councillor districts. In addition to various other important state and federal constitutional and statutory requirements, redistricting is based on the number of legal residents in each district as determined by the federal census taken in 1990 and every tenth year after.

Each district for a particular office must contain an equal number of residents, as nearly as possible. Unlike congressional districts, state legislative districts need only be substantially equal. For example, based upon the 1990 federal census, each state representative district had to contain approximately 37,500 residents. This figure is obtained by dividing the total number of Massachusetts residents by the number of state representative seats (160). Based upon the 2000 federal census, the state's population was 6,349,119. Therefore each of the 160 representative districts had to contain approximately 39,682 residents while each of the 40 senatorial districts had to contain approximately 158,728 residents. Further, a district's population must be within 5% of that average number unless justified by important state policies. For example, in a state representative district drawn after the 1990 federal census, the number of residents could have been 1875 less or 1875 more than 37,500 and for the districts drawn after the 2000 federal census, the number of residents could have been 1984 less or 1984 more than 39,682.

This same procedure is used to calculate the number of residents in the 40 senatorial districts. Councillor districts are composed of five contiguous state senatorial districts; there are eight councillor districts in all.

The new districts take effect for the state primary and election two years after the federal census on which they are based. The new districts resulting from the 2010 federal census will take effect for the 2012 presidential primaries, state primaries and state election.

Legal Citations:

Massachusetts Constitution amend. article 101

Massachusetts General Laws chapter 57 sections 2, 3 and 4

1987 House Document No. 5875, at 20-30

Brown v. Thomson, 462 U. S. 835 (1983)

Black Political Task Force v. Connolly, 679 F. Supp. 109, 114, 123-31 (D. Mass. 1988) (three judge court)

Merriam v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 375 Mass. 246, 376 N. E. 2d 838 (1978)

Black Political Task Force v. Connolly, F. Supp. Civ., Nos. 91-12750-H, 91-12751-H (D. Mass. 1992)

Lamson v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 341 Mass. 264, 168 N. E. 2d 480 (1960)

Brookline v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 417 Mass. 406 (1994)