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Lawmakers approve separate congressional districts for South Coast cities

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

New Bedford and Fall River are set to remain in separate congressional districts — at least for another ten years. The Massachusetts house and senate voted Wednesday to finalize the state’s once-per-decade redistricting plan.

The proposed map passed both chambers easily, clearing the House by a vote of 151-8 and the Senate 26-13. Much of the map’s opposition came from Southeastern Massachusetts. State Senators Michael Rodrigues of Westport, Mark Montigny of New Bedford, Marc Pacheco of Taunton and Julian Cyr of Truro all voted against the map.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, opponents argued that splitting the South Coast’s biggest cities would dilute the region’s political power at the federal level. “It is an act of gerrymandering. There’s no sugarcoating it,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “They’re effectively watering down the interests of the fishing industry.”

Others claimed the separation would weaken the voices of the two cities’ sizeable immigrant population.

However, supporters of the split argued it gives Fall River more power as a voting block — the city will become the most populous in the 4th district, currently represented by Jake Auchincloss of Brookline.

New Bedford will remain in the 9th district, represented by Bill Keating.

Neither South Coast city has sent one of its own residents to Congress in 99 years.