Depending on where they live, state lawmakers will have to scramble to get to know new constituents or hold onto familiar territory under a once-in-a-decade redrawing of legislative districts.

Depending on where they live, state lawmakers will have to scramble to get to know new constituents or hold onto familiar territory under a once-in-a-decade redrawing of legislative districts.


Lawmakers are constitutionally required to overhaul state legislative and congressional boundaries every 10 years to reflect how Massachusetts’ population has shifted.


The maps, passed by the House and Senate on Nov. 1 and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick the same week, leaves several House members from Blackstone Valley, MetroWest, the North Shore, the Fall River and Taunton area and other regions with drastically new turf.


“I always find it hard to lose something that I've had for a while,” said state Rep. Patricia Canavan, D-Brockton, who will lose a section of Easton. But Canavan said she looks forward to meeting new constituents in East Bridgewater.


Other state representatives will pick up or lose just a few new precincts or see no new terrain at all. The Senate brings fewer changes – it leaves 92 percent of state residents in the same districts, lawmakers said.


“My district didn’t change at all, not one precinct,” said state Sen. Brian Joyce, D-Milton.


The maps deliver a significant boost in minority voting power. Since 2000, the state’s Asian and Hispanic populations each spiked 46 percent while the ranks of black residents grew 26 percent, according to the 2010 Census. Meanwhile, the white majority dipped slightly, by 2 percent. 


To reflect these changes, districts where minorities are the majority population have doubled from 10 to 20 in the House. The Senate added a third. Between both chambers, that adds up to one more than minority voting groups proposed earlier this year.


Among communities with new majority-minority House districts are Brockton, Lawrence and Lowell, with the changes affecting the borders of some surrounding districts, too.


“We all agree that change needed to take place,” said Rep. Bradford Hill, R-Ipswich, a member of the redistricting committee.


That marks a major change in the Legislature’s approach. A 2004 federal court ruling found that the House had protected incumbents at the expense of black voters in the 2000 redistricting. The case ultimately led to former Speaker Thomas Finneran’s obstruction of justice conviction, stemming from statements about his role in the plan. 


Leaders of a legislative redistricting panel went to great lengths to stress this plan is different, with lawmakers actively soliciting public input for a change.


Chairmen Sen. Stanley Rosenberg and Rep. Michael Moran stressed that they held 13 public hearings versus the five held a decade ago. More than 500 people and groups submitted comments at the forums or through a new redistricting website, many giving very technical suggestions on how districts could be drawn.


For the first time, the committee accepted public comments on the proposed maps for a week and made several minor changes before sending its final recommendation to the Legislature on Tuesday, Oct. 25. Lawmakers then accepted amendment proposals for a week before voting on the proposals. 


Visit www.malegislature.gov/district to view the maps.


“These maps, I believe, truly reflect the faces of this state,” Moran said at a State House public hearing where the proposed maps were released.


Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, said the first phase of public input was “outstanding,” but he wished people had more than a single week to study the maps and give feedback. Lawmakers had to wrap up the legislative maps in time for House candidates to meet a one-year residency requirement for the Nov. 4, 2012 election.


“I think we could have moved more quickly and prevented that from happening,” said Tarr, who sits on the redistricting committee.


The committee faces a greater task in the coming weeks: Trimming the state’s congressional districts from 10 to nine to reflect that Massachusetts’ population grew slower over the past decade than the rest of the U.S. That potentially thorny proposal could come out in early November.


State Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, said some proposed districts may look oddly shaped. That reflects how districts historically have been drawn, he said.


“You came into this process with those districts already being gerrymandered, so the likelihood is the incumbent is not going to want to see drastic changes to his or her district,” Hedlund said. “That’s why some of these things will continue looking gerrymandered on paper for some time to come.”


Altogether, the proposal deals with 160 House districts and 40 Senate districts.


Other key details of the redistricting proposal include:


- Hill, who loses sections of Boxford and Middleton while picking up Topsfield and Rowley, cast the lone vote against the proposal on the committee.


- The 20 minority-majority districts include the 10th, 11th, 16th and 17th in Essex County; the 18th Middlesex; the 15th Worcester; the 9th Plymouth; 10 others in Suffolk County and three in Hampden County. Among them is the district represented by Rep. Michael Brady, D-Brockton. 


- Ninety-nine towns and cities have lost population since 2000, according to the 2010 Census, with Cape Cod and western Massachusetts seeing some of the largest declines. Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Bristol, Plymouth and Worcester counties all gained population overall.


- The Senate proposal reunites several communities now split into multiple districts: Barnstable, Belchertown, Melrose, Revere, Saugus, Somerville and Woburn. But three towns are divided into different Senate districts for the first time: Northbridge, Needham and Winchester. Overall, 21 towns and cities are split into different Senate districts, down from 25.


- Among the bigger House changes, state Reps. Kevin Kuros, R-Uxbridge, and Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, essentially swap much of their territory; the House map changes significantly in the Fall River and Taunton area, particularly for Rep. Keiko Orrall, R-Lakeville; and several House districts in Essex County, including Rep. Bradford Hill’s, swap considerable territory. 


(Reporter David Riley can be reached at 508-626-4424.)