A new statewide report done by a Boston University professor for Lawyers for Civil Rights shows that major population shifts have happened in Everett like no other area of the state – likely catapulting both of its state legislatives seats, the House and Senate districts, into majority-minority status.
The report was commissioned by Lawyers for Civil Rights – a voting rights group that helped to push Everett to change its municipal voting system this year – and performed by BU professor Maxwell Palmer. The purpose was to look at population shifts and how they would affect the upcoming redistricting efforts later this year as it relates to adding majority-minority district seats. Simply put, majority-minority districts are those in which the non-white population is greater than the white population.
“Everett is at the epicenter of demographic change in the Commonwealth,” said Oren Sellstrom, litigation director for Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston. “At the local level, the Everett City Council recently voted to make the City Council a true-district based system that will allow greater representation for communities of color. Professor Palmer’s analysis demonstrates that Everett’s communities of color will soon see expanded opportunities at the state level as well. By virtue of demographic changes over the last decade, both the House and Senate districts that encompass Everett have already become majority-minority. And that’s just the starting point. The redistricting process that will occur following release of 2020 Census data may well expand those numbers even further, providing yet more opportunity for communities of color in Everett and surrounding areas to expand their voting power and elect candidates of their choice.”
Maxwell found that the state has increased in population by 5.3 percent, but Suffolk County has grown 10.3 percent and Middlesex County by 6.5 percent.
“This growth was primarily driven by increases in the minority population,” read the report. “Statewide, the white population shrank from 76.1 percent to 70.3 percent, the Black population increased from 6 percent to 7.1 percent, and the Hispanic population increased from 9.6 percent to 12.4 percent. The minority population grew at a higher rate than the white population in every county of the state except Nantucket and Dukes counties. Overall, population growth was highest in Greater Boston and the North Shore.”
That population shift has been most noticeable in Everett, with the minority population growing at a rate that took the House district – the 28th Middlesex represented by Rep. Joe McGonagle – into a majority-minority district, according to the study. It was one of five districts to change over to majority-minority, with the others being the 9th Hampden (Rep. Orlando Ramos of Springfield); 33rd Middlesex (Malden Rep. Steven Ultrino); 1st Norfolk (Quincy Rep. Bruce Ayers); and the 16th Worcester (Worcester Rep. Daniel Donahue).
The 28th Middlesex seat is an Everett-only seat, meaning it doesn’t share any other communities, and it went from about 45 percent minority representation to 56.4 percent in the study. That was a jump of at least 10 percent, and it is predicted to be even higher once the 2020 Census figures are reported later this spring.
“I’m not surprised by this news and it’s truly indicative of how Everett is an evolving and changing community,” said McGonagle. “We are lucky to be a center for different cultures and diversity. In my position as state rep., I have had the opportunity to meet so many of these people who have welcomed me to explore their traditions, especially through their businesses, which thrive in Everett. I believe that together, we make Everett a great place to live and work.”
Three other House districts were also identified as nearly majority-minority, and that included the House district next door in Revere and Chelsea – represented by new Rep. Jessica Giannino. That district (16th Suffolk) represents mostly west Revere, but contains the Prattville neighborhood of Chelsea also. Like Everett, it had a dynamic shift in the numbers of minorities represented from that area, going from about 35 percent to 45.1 percent. It is identified, along with a district in Jamaica Plain and a district in Plymouth, that could become majority-minority next year depending on how the new lines are drawn.
There were 20 of the 160 House districts certified as majority-minority districts in the last effort in 2012, and all of them remained that way in the study.
For Everett’s Senate district – Middlesex & Suffolk District – there was also a shift likely fueled by the changes in Everett. That district, represented by State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, encompasses Everett, Chelsea, Charlestown and large parts of Cambridge and Allston. The study showed the minority representation for that district went from about 46 percent to 51.2 percent.
It was the only Senate district that changed in the study, though the Second Essex & Middlesex was identified as a near majority-minority district – at 47.7 percent of the represented population.
There were three Senate districts that were majority-minority under the2012 Redistricting plan, and all three remained so as well in the study.
“As someone who has been actively engaged in my communities, this is not a surprise to me and should not be for anyone else,” he said. “I have long known that Black and brown residents make up the majority of my district, and I look forward to continue listening and responding to the needs of my constituents. I am very proud to represent one of the most racially and ethnically diverse districts in the state, and I have always said our diversity is our strength. From the very first day I joined the Massachusetts Senate, the number one priority of my office has been serving those who for far too long felt like they didn’t have a voice in their state government, as well as addressing many longstanding inequities in our neighborhoods.”
DiDomenico has made a point over the last year during his 10th anniversary in the State Senate to stress that he has always strove to better represent the vulnerable and those historically not at the table in policymaking.
“The work of my Senate office—whether it be the policies I have championed or the assistance we provide to my constituents— has always centered the most vulnerable among us, marginalized communities, and those who have historically been left behind,” he said. “The policies I’ve supported over the years and stances I’ve taken weren’t always the most popular, but they were always what I knew in my heart was right. As always, I want all of my constituents in every neighborhood I represent to know that they have a strong voice in the State House addressing their concerns and needs.”
Patti Cheever, of the Everett Democratic City Committee, said Everett is a majority-minority city, but is not of one predominant demographic – making language access a key issue when talking about such issues. She said going forward they will focus on access to electoral opportunities and representation.
“Everett has long enjoyed the benefits of diversity and global perspective, and it is important to make sure that representation and advocacy happen,” she said. “Though we are a majority underrepresented population, we are not overwhelmingly any one demographic. Increased language access and an increased effort to reach out to provide a welcome and information on the resources available in our city are key to introducing newcomer residents to our community. Access and representation should be our main focus moving forward.”
Councilor Gerly Adrien said she has been watching for this report for some time, and said it is exciting because it opens up opportunities for more diverse people to seek office and for that representation to look more like the overall community. She also said it might even open up doors for her political future.
“As we are seeing that the population in Everett’s 28th Middlesex district has changed, it has been brought to my attention in evaluating what other opportunities that I could run for in the future,” she said. “I’m very excited about this. I think it’s great and it will encourage other people in the community who look like the community to run for office.”
School Committeeman Marcony Almeida Barros said he was also encouraged by the report, and has been looking forward to the data for some time. As the first Brazilian-American elected to the School Committee, he said such identified changes should send a message to policy-makers about finding better ways to include everyone.
“Diversity is our strength, and as the first Brazilian-American elected to the School Committee, I welcome this news,” he said. “I’m proud to be from Everett, which is more diverse than when I first arrived here over 20 years ago. Our policy-making in all levels of government should reflect this diversity, ensuring that all voices are heard and everyone has a seat at the table. That’s why I sponsored the creation of the Subcommittee on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity so all Everett families are part of the decision-making process in our schools and beyond.”
The Redistricting process will not begin until full Census 2020 data is revealed later this spring and summer. The process typically takes a year to complete within the Legislature, likely finishing in early 2022.