Letter on the Redistricting of Fall River

Joint Committee on Redistricting

Southcoast Coalition on Redistricting
Growing the Political Power of
Persons of Color, New Citizens, Youth and Working Class

To The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Special Joint Committee on Redistricting
William N. Brownsberger, Senate Chair
Michael J. Moran, House Chair

Dear Chairs of the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting,

We, the signatories of this document, are writing to you to request changes in the congressional Districts in Fall River. In planning this redistricting, we looked at the population lost by both Congressional Districts 4 and 9 (CD-04 and CD-09). We also looked at ways in which the voting power of persons of color, new citizens, youth, and working class folks can be maximized given the diverse demographics of cities in these Districts, and of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a whole. It is our hope that you will see not only the numerical benefits of adopting our plan for redistricting, but also understand the value of actively looking for ways to limit the dilution of the vote of minority groups, like the ones mentioned above. If adopted, the plan laid out below could be instrumental in giving persons of color, new citizens, youth, and working class folks in Fall River and the South Coast better and more proportionate representation than ever before.

Solving the Problem of the Current Loss of Population

We begin our proposal for the congressional Districts in Fall River. Our plan consists of the following:
- move the entirety of Fall River, currently split between CD-04 and CD-09, into CD-09,
- move the entirety of Middleborough, currently fully in CD-09, into CD-04,
- move the entirety of Raynham, currently split between CD-04 and CD-08, into CD-04, and
- move the entirety of Walpole, currently fully in CD-08, into CD-04.

If these new boundaries were to be adopted, CD-04, which is currently underpopulated by around 3,080 residents, would be 394 residents over 0, which is within the approved margin for redistricting. Additionally, CD-09, which is currently underpopulated by around 19,892 residents, would be only 1,500 residents over 0, also within the approved margin for redistricting. This solves the numerical issues with the Districts’ current design. But as shown below it also enhances the political power of persons of color, new citizens, youth, and working class folks in the city of Fall River, and brings CD-09 as a whole to a better place in terms of representing these communities of interest.

Solving the Current Confusion and Diffusion of Accountability

The way that Fall River is currently split is problematic for its residents, as well as the residents of surrounding areas, for multiple reasons. Firstly, splitting Fall River between CD-04 and CD-09 means that the one city is left with two representatives. This can create a lot of confusion on the part of voters. And diffusion of responsibility for representatives, which works against accountability, something so important in a democracy. It is like a table at a restaurant being waited on by two people: it can create confusion for both patrons and waiters. Thus, concentrating Fall River in one District places responsibility directly onto one representative to deliver results to the people of the city. And if that one representative does not deliver, unified voters from all over Fall River will have more voting power to express their discontent and to try to hire someone else through the ballot box. Furthermore, sections one and two of Article 101 of the Massachusetts Constitution requires that Districts be contiguous and makes an effort to respect city and town boundaries, which the current splitting of Fall River does not accomplish.

Solving the Current Cracking of Minority and Working Class Communities

Secondly, and most importantly, the majority of people of color, new U.S. citizen immigrants, youth and working class folks currently live in the wards of Fall River along the boundaries that separate CD-04 and CD-09 (at or close to the I-195 corridor) (see map, exhibit 1.1). With the current boundaries, these traditionally marginalized populations are being split, or “cracked” between CD04 and CD09. For example, the percentage of people of color (PoC) in the wards close to or divided by the Districts’ boundaries is 32% PoC vs. 68% white (see exhibit 1.2). This is very different for the communities in the wards in north and south Fall River, farther away from the Districts’ boundaries. These communities are not experiencing cracking, which are 82% white vs 18% PoC (see exhibit 1.2). Hence, the voting and political power of people living in the boundaries of the Districts (who in their majority are Black, Hispanic, Brazilian, and Portuguese-- young, immigrant, and/or working class) is being diluted and rendered mute because most of them live in neighborhoods cracked by the current Districts’ boundaries. As a result, they cannot vote in the same District, even though they, their relatives, and their friends live in the same neighborhoods.

This political injustice is not only experienced during Congressional elections. But as you will read below, it has even affected representation for national delegate seats at the Democratic National Convention (2020). The most recent case is that of Mr. Shane Burgo and his Fall River supporters: Ms. Kelsey Silva, Mr. James Osterfield, and Mrs. Brianne Allain, all from CD04 Fall River neighborhoods. “I ran for one of the national delegate seats open in the Massachusetts 9th Congressional district,” Mr. Burgo told us, “and struggled to garner the votes from my supporters in Fall River that happened to fall under CD-4. Which made it difficult for a young PoC like me to have a voice on a national level.” Burgo’s supporters agree. Ms. Silva, Mr. Osterfield, and Mrs. Allain told us that they would have voted for Mr. Burgo had all of Fall River been in the same District.

Another example of how the boundaries are affecting families is that of Ms. Sandra Carreiro. “I live in a CD4 neighborhood in Fall River,” Ms Carreiro told us. “My son goes to school about a mile away at a Catholic school that happens to be in a CD9 Fall River neighborhood. I have relatives, close to 100 of them, all of them working class, who live in both CD4 and CD9 neighborhoods. At any given time of the day I shop at stores and go for walks in both CD4 and CD9. I don’t understand it; and I want this to stop: why is my community cracked? My relatives and I cannot vote for the same Congressperson even though we all live in the same community and within blocks of each other.”

It is therefore vital to place the entirety of the city, given its diversity and variety of people across its geography, into one common Congressional District.

Though we considered putting all of Fall River into CD-04, this would only worsen the population deficit in CD-09, and would fail to give the people of Fall River the power that comes with being in the same CD as nearby New Bedford, given the similar demographics and voting patterns of the two cities (see exhibits 2.1 and 2.2). Fall River must therefore be kept together to enhance the voting power of the aforementioned groups. Furthermore, Fall River is a city whose people and culture does not identify with the culture and socioeconomics of Greater Boston and some of Boston’s wealthier suburbs (currently most of CD04). It rather identifies much more closely with that of the South Coast, i.e., residents of New Bedford and the working class towns in the Cape Cod area.

In sum, keeping a city like Fall River, or even parts of it, in the same District as Newton, Brookline, Wellesley, and other wealthier towns that share more culture, racial homogeneity, and socioeconomics with Bostonians than South Coast Fall River is not, we believe, a logical option (see exhibits 3.1 and 3.2).

In sum, we propose the following:
Giving all of the residents of Fall River - given its racial diversity, immigrant population and high number of working class folks - the power of a unified voice at the ballot box.
We also propose that all Fall River residents gain the ability, at the Congressional level, to vote with New Bedford, another increasingly racially diverse, immigrant city with high numbers of working class folks. Both cities share voting patterns and needs.
Finally, balancing out the population losses numerically in CD-04 and CD-09, is a solution that we believe will make voters and legislators across the South Coast happier, more unified, and better able to elect the kind of representation that each respective municipality and District wants and deserves.

Petition by
Jaidyn Appel
Medford, Massachusetts

To: Joint Committee on Redistricting
From: [Your Name]

Southcoast Coalition on Redistricting
Growing the Political Power of
Persons of Color, New Citizens, Youth and Working Class