Monday, July 29, 2013

An Anomaly: The Massachusetts Census Here today (1970); Gone tomorrow (1974)

Recently, the reference staff received a question regarding a little-known 1971 state census. Massachusetts has taken a census in years ending in 5 since the mid-1800’s and the results are available on the State Library’s website. The United States government also conducts a census in years ending in 0; starting in the year 1790.

We discovered that there was a Massachusetts Constitutional Amendment adopted in 1970 (XCII-#92), which called for a state census in 1971 and every tenth year thereafter. The amendment also refined how the General Court was composed. At that time, the House of Representatives consisted of 240 members and the Senate of 40 members. The General Court (the Legislature) held a constitutional convention in both 1968 and 1969 to pass this Constitutional Amendment. There were court cases to dispute the census results by Brockton, Lowell and others. There were questions about the counting of students, especially for Cambridge.

Constitutional Amendment XCII was annulled in 1974. The General Court held constitutional conventions in both 1971 and 1973. The people of Massachusetts approved the annulment which was on the 1974 ballot; this became amendment CI (#101). Amendment CI also reduced the size of the General Court to 160 members of the House of Representatives and 40 Senators. The 1971 census was completed, but apparently the results were never published. The returns are available at the State Archives.

For more information about the Massachusetts Constitution and General Court (Legislature), please visit us in room 341 of the State House. The State Library is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 am to 5 pm.