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March 8, 2011

Cape Ann politicos to redraw districts

Two lawmakers who represent Cape Ann will sit on the influential committee responsible for redrawing the lines of the state's congressional districts.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr, R-Gloucester, and and Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, whose district includes all of Manchester, have been named to a joint legislative redistricting committee that will determine how to reduce the state's congressional districts from 10 to nine. Another North Shore lawmaker, state Reps. John Keenan, D-Salem, will sit on the panel.

Census figures released in December showed the state's population climbed at a slower pace than other regions, so Massachusetts will lose a congressional seat by the 2012 elections.

"This is one of the most important redistricting exercises in recent memory," said Tarr.

The committee will also redraw the lines in state legislators' districts where populations have shifted dramatically.

Meanwhile, Tarr said he's heard talk of drawing a district that would include both the Merrimack Valley and the North Shore, combining areas belonging to Congressman John Tierney and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas.

"They're two distinct regions," Tarr said. "There has been some thought about the consolidation of the two. That's something I'm watching very closely."

Neither Keenan nor Hill, however, would speculate on specific districts that could face consolidation.

Hill noted that many districts have been shaped in advantageous ways.

"Looking at the map, clearly they were gerrymandered to help specific legislators," Hill said. "The committee's goal is to rectify that situation. ... We're still waiting for the Census data (with precinct-by-precinct numbers). I can't be specific, but generally speaking ... I think we have an opportunity to right a few wrongs."

The committee is expected to hold a series of public hearings throughout the state. Keenan noted the body is under a tight deadline.

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