John Olver retirement resets Congressional redistricting

The announcement today by John Olver that he will not seek re-election to Congress in 2012 should make the imminent task of reducing Massachusetts from ten to nine Congressional seats a bit easier. Indications are that the Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting will release its proposed redistricting map early in November (which happens to be next week).

Ten years ago and twenty years ago, the Fifth District appeared to be at great risk, but this time seems more secure. One scenario that had recently emerged in the press had much of Olver’s First District merging with the Worcester-based Third District now held by James McGovern. The likelihood of that happening seems much greater after Olver’s announcement. Consequently, the Fifth District could shift westward, picking up the Middlesex County towns of Pepperell and Townsend now in Olver’s district and perhaps even gaining Worcester County communities such as Gardner, Fitchburg or Leominster and perhaps losing Haverhill to the Sixth District. It’s all just speculation at this point, but when has that ever stopped us?

For those interested, here are the current Congressional Districts, the individual who now holds the seat, and the major population centers in each of the districts. Below that is a map of the Commonwealth that shows the boundaries of the current districts.

First District: John Olver of Amherst (Pittsfield, Amherst, Fitchburg, Holyoke)
Second District: Richard Neal of Springfield (Springfield, Northampton, Chicopee)
Third District: James McGovern of Worcester (Worcester, Marlborough, Fall River)
Fourth District: Barney Frank of Newton (Newton, Taunton, New Bedford)
Fifth District: Niki Tsongas of Lowell (Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill)
Sixth District: John Tierney of Salem (Salem, Lynn, Peabody)
Seventh District: Edward Markey of Malden (Malden, Woburn, Framingham, Waltham)
Eighth District: Michael Capuano of Somerville (Boston, Cambridge, Somerville)
Ninth District: Stephen Lynch of Boston (Boston, Brockton, Needham)
Tenth District: William Keating of Quincy (Quincy, Plymouth, Barnstable)