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Lawmakers debate congressional district boundaries on South Coast

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MA Legislature
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A proposed congressional map would place Fall River and New Bedford in separate districts.

State lawmakers today heard testimony on newly proposed congressional district boundaries.

The hearing was part of the decadal redrawing of districts following the U.S. Census. Today’s arguments centered on whether Fall River and New Bedford should join the same district.

As proposed, the map under consideration would separate the two South Coast cities. Fall River would join the 4th district, currently represented by Jake Auchincloss, and New Bedford would stay in the 9th district, represented by Bill Keating.

Supporters of the split included officials from the Fall River area, who said it would give the South Coast more advocates in congress. “The region will have the strength of two federal voices when we need them,” said State Representative Carole Fiola.

Opponents of the proposed map, including New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Congressman Bill Keating, said the cities should share one district thanks to their common culture, economic interests and history.

“They’ve been called sister cities since they were harpooning whales,” said State Representative Alan Silvia of Fall River. He added that uniting Fall River and New Bedford would give a stronger, unified voice to the South Coast’s large immigrant population.

The legislature’s Special Joint Committee on Redistricting will now consider whether to alter the proposed map before voting to ratify.