Massachusetts' Redistricting News
(July 31, 2001 - October 1, 2001)

 

 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." October 1, 2001
 Boston Globe: "Lynch Would Lose Minority Voters in Plan." September 28, 2001
 Boston Herald: "Meehan's Seat May End Up in Hands of State Court." September 26, 2001
 Boston Herald: "Senate Plan Would Save Meehan Seat." September 25, 2001
 Boston Globe: "Minorities Welcome US House Map Plan." September 25, 2001
 Boston Globe : "Swift would veto redistricting plan:
Opposes split of Merrimack Valley region."
August 23, 2001
 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." August 13, 2001
 Associated Press: "Meehan gains support." August 10, 2001
 Associated Press: "Minority groups criticize Finneran's plan to redistrict." July 31, 2001

More Recent Redistricting News from Massachusetts

More Massachusetts Redistricting News from July 12, 2001-July 30, 2001

 

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
October 1, 2001

Meehan Reprieve?

The Massachusetts Senate has passed a map that would preserve Rep. Marty Meehan's (D) district and create a majority-minority district in the Boston suburbs. That doesn't mean it will become law, though, especially given Meehan's remarks about President Bush following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Senate map differs dramatically from a state House plan that would eliminate Meehan's district and instead keep about 85 percent of voters in their current districts. "There is no reason to pit two incumbent Congressmen against each other," said state Senate President Thomas Birmingham (D). "That only serves to diminish our collective authority in Congress."

Because large differences exist, however, state legislators from both chambers now plan to meet to draw up a third plan.

"The thought now is that the redistricting committee will reconvene and develop a single consensus map. And Senate members feel there are important provisions to preserve, and presumably House Members feel the same way," explained Allison Franklin, a Birmingham spokeswoman.

The Senate, like the House, would reshape the 8th district, currently held by Rep. Michael (D), so that minority residents would make up more than half the population. Unlike the House plan, however, the Senate version links those minority neighborhoods with liberal voting areas, such as Cambridge, which minority leaders believe would be more receptive to supporting minority candidates.

Meehan's future in the redistricting battle could also be affected by comments he made about the White House claim that Air Force One was a terrorist target. Three days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Meehan was quoted as saying, "I don't buy the notion Air Force One was a target; that's just PR, that's just spin."

"Absolutely his comments will affect this debate," said state Rep. Thomas Petrolati (D), chairman of the state House redistricting committee. "Based on the calls I've gotten, his remarks didn't sit well with a lot of people. I think some people will factor in the type of job he's done and what he said."

Boston Globe
Lynch Would Lose Minority Voters in Plan
By Yvonne Abraham
September 28, 2001

Something was missing from the 9th District when the Senate unveiled its proposal for redrawing congressional boundaries this week: 70,000 Boston residents, many of them liberal and minority voters.

Under the Senate plan, the 9th was pushed south, picking up suburbs and losing voters in the South End, Jamaica Plain, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, and Roxbury, among others. As a result, the 9th District, now 80 percent white, would become even more so, its minority population reduced to 13.9 percent.

Many of the Boston neighborhoods eliminated were lost by state Senator Stephen F. Lynch in his Democratic primary victory Sept. 11 to replace Representative J. Joseph Moakley, who died in May.

If the Senate plan is approved and Lynch prevails in the general election Nov. 6 as expected, he would be representing, by and large, the city's heavily white areas. Other Boston voters would be moved into the 8th District, represented by Congressman Michael E. Capuano, a Somerville Democrat.

During the Democratic primary campaign, Lynch worked hard to move beyond his South Boston roots and convince voters he could represent all of the district's residents. But the 9th District proposed by the Senate could reinforce Lynch's image as being out of touch with a more diverse, changing city population.

The redrawn district could also help to ensure Lynch's invincibility in the seat and insulate him from a liberal challenger in a future election.

State Senator Cheryl A. Jacques of Needham beat Lynch 5,041-2,270 in the Boston precincts the Senate plan removes from the district. In some Jamaica Plain precincts, she defeated him by a 10 to 1 ratio.

''The way a senator or congressman wants the district, anyplace they lost they want to let go, and where they did really well they want to keep,'' said Lou DiNatale, a political analyst at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. ''Capuano ran surprisingly strong in minority precincts, and Lynch, on the other hand, did not.''

Under the Senate plan, the 9th District would represent 29 percent of the city and the 8th District would represent 71 percent. The shift of Boston neighborhoods to Capuano's seat was suggested as a way of creating an 8th District in which minorities make up more than 50 percent of the population.

Also removed from the 9th District are parts of Hyde Park and Dorchester, which Lynch, who ran strong in those neighborhoods, would probably prefer to keep.

Also taken from the district is Taunton (which went to state Senator Marc R. Pacheco of Taunton in the primary) and Medfield (which Jacques won).

The plan adds Sharon, West Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Halifax, Hanson, Holbrook, Avon, and parts of Bridgewater, Hanover, Brockton, and Easton.

The most talked-about change is the removal of Jamaica Plain. Shifting the neighborhood into the 8th District is likely to please both liberal activists and Lynch, said a former city politician who has analyzed the district. *

'The reason Jamaica Plain has been removed is a two-fer,'' he said. ''Political activists, both black and white, think of it as more kindred ideologically to Cambridge. And Stevie Lynch, who is now the Congressman from the 9th, realizes he lost every precinct in JP.''

State Senator Michael W. Morrissey of Quincy, vice chairman of the redistricting committee, said Lynch had no more influence over the proposal than any other senator, though the final boundaries were decided after the primary.

Several sources said Lynch is unhappy with the Senate plan because he sees it as too suburban, and will try to retain some Boston neighborhoods.

Lynch did not return several calls seeking comment.

Still, if Lynch enters Congress, he will likely remain there as long as he wishes, as Massachusetts congressmen usually do. In fact, Senate leaders said as they unveiled their plan that they sought to protect incumbency, and, in essence, appear to have treated Lynch as one of those incumbents.

''This probably means Stephen Lynch will be the congressman for a very, very long time,'' said Michael McCormack, a former Boston city councilor.

Boston Herald
Meehan's Seat May End Up in Hands of State Court
By Steve Marantz
September 26, 2001

A Beacon Hill stalemate over the politically volatile issue of congressional redistricting could force a resolution in court - putting the fate of U.S. Rep. Martin T. Meehan's Merrimack Valley seat in the hands of state judges, legal experts said yesterday.

If Senate lawmakers, who are proposing a map that preserves Meehan's 5th District, and House lawmakers, who are proposing eliminating the 5th in favor of a new southeastern district, can't agree by the end of formal sessions on Nov. 22, the decision is likely to be made for them.

``State courts would probably have first crack at it - nobody wants that to happen,'' said Lawrence DiCara, a Boston attorney who specializes in redistricting law and who helped draw the House map. ``It's never happened here before. We'd be in uncharted territory.''

Although time is of the essence, the Senate and House redistricting chairmen are not scheduled to meet until next week. The Senate chair, Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said yesterday he was unable to reach the House chair, Rep. Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow).

``The longer it takes, the greater the danger there could be court intervention, but it's not on a specific timeline,'' Rosenberg said.

Petrolati could not be reached for comment, but at least one lawmaker believes the House plan is more faithful to federal redistricting law and would prevail. The weakness in the Senate plan is that it splits 10 communities between two districts, while the House plan splits just one (Boston), said Rep. Cory Atkins (D-Concord).

``The Senate plan is not in the spirit of the law - it splits communities and precincts,'' said Atkins, a member of the House redistricting committee. ``The priority of the law is not about preserving incumbency.''

The Senate map, essentially preserving the districts of nine Democratic incumbents, is being supported by Democratic Party chairman Phil Johnston, party spokeswoman Jane Lane said.

``Within the party, the Senate plan is popular,'' said Lane.

Party officials see enough common ground to provide a basis for agreement, she added. The Senate plan, while not guaranteeing a congressman from southeastern Massachusetts, opens the possibility for one from the 4th District, now represented by Newton's Barney Frank.

Both plans create an 8th District that is 51 percent non-white, with the House plan including Cambridge and the Senate plan Lynn. Minority lawmakers prefer the Senate plan because Cambridge tends to vote more liberally.

``In many ways the Senate plan does what the Speaker (Thomas F. Finneran) was trying to do - hopefully he will be in a mood to negotiate,'' Lane said.

Finneran could not be reached. Rosenberg emphasized the similarities over the differences.

``We differ in detail and approach but not in the fundamental belief that certain things should be done,'' Rosenberg said. ``It seems to me that gives us a place to start.''

But House lawmakers have said that constituents are angry about Meehan making remarks critical of President Bush following the Sept. 11 attacks, and are urging them to eliminate his district.

Despite the groundswell against Meehan, no Democrat has stepped up to challenge him, according to political observers.

Boston Herald
Senate Plan Would Save Meehan Seat
By Steve Marantz
September 25, 2001

U.S. Rep. Martin T. Meehan's comments regarding President Bush and the terrorist attacks may haunt him as lawmakers haggle over whether to obliterate or save his 5th District seat.

Meehan got some good news yesterday when the state Senate unveiled a congressional redistricting map that essentially protects the state's nine incumbents, including him.

Meehan's Lowell-Lawrence seat was eliminated in a previous House plan, potentially forcing him to run against another Democratic incumbent, John Tierney of Salem, in the 6th District.

But the House redistricting chairman vowed to push for the House plan in part due to Meehan's controversial critical remarks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In a Herald interview, Meehan characterized Bush's explanation for carrying out evasive tactics to dodge terrorists targeting Air Force One as ``PR'' - public relations - and ``spin.''

``Absolutely, his comments will affect this debate,'' said Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati (D-Ludlow). ``Based on the calls I've gotten, his remarks didn't sit well with a lot of people. I think some people will factor in the type of job he's done and what he said.''

Petrolati said Meehan's comments ``are not the basis'' for eliminating his district, but they are a consideration affecting the heightened emotions of lawmakers. A joint committee of Senate and House lawmakers will meet within a week to negotiate the final map.

``The calls suggest a pretty fair amount of people out there are upset with his comments,'' said Petrolati.

But U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who represents the 4th District, said yesterday that Meehan's comments should not be held against him.

``We're all under stress down here,'' said Frank, speaking from his Washington, D.C., office. ``To draw excessively from one comment - nobody is 100 percent perfect - is wrong.''

Frank said the House's goal of creating a Southeastern Massachusetts district was worthy, but not at the expense of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore districts, which are merged in the House plan.

Meehan's office released a statement praising the Senate plan, as well as Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham and Senate redistricting chairman Stanley Rosenberg.

``I'm pleased for the communities I represent . . . the Senate map recognizes the value in keeping them together,'' Meehan said. ``While the redistricting process is far from over, I'm hopeful the final plan will more closely resemble the Senate proposal.''

The Senate plan leaves the 5th based in the Merrimack Valley, places about 88 percent of the state's residents in their current district, and mildly increases the possibility of electing a congressman from the southeastern region and minority neighborhoods in Boston.

Senate drafters said they prioritized incumbency to protect the state's ``clout'' in Washington, as well as striving for districts with equal-sized populations, related interests, and historical continuity.

``The Fifth reflects a longstanding community of interest in Lawrence and Lowell,'' said Birmingham.

He said a re-election battle between Meehan and Tierney would not serve the state's interests.

``There's no reason to pit two incumbent Democrats against one another,'' said Birmingham. ``It serves to diminish the collective authority of Lowell and Lawrence, and it doesn't advance the common interests of Democrats.''

Rosenberg said the Senate map seeks to preserve the 5th District, anchored by Lowell and Lawrence, because the redistricting priority 10 years ago was to create a Merrimack Valley seat.

``We made incremental rather than dramatic changes,'' said Rosenberg. ``We built on the current map and tried to respect the current districts.''

Petrolati pointed out that House plan re-unites 13 communities currently split among two districts - leaving only Boston split - while the Senate plan splits 10 communities, including Boston.

However, Rosenberg asserted that several communities, notably Fall River - split by the Senate between the 3rd and 4th - prefer to be split because they can access two congressmen.

The Senate plan creates an 8th District that is 51 percent non-white - same as the House plan - opening the door for a minority congressman. However, Rosenberg said the percentage of registered non-white voters in the 8th proposed by the Senate is far less than 50 percent.

Differences in Senate plan

The new congressional redistricting plan released by the state Senate yesterday poses some significant differences with the version already offered by the House.

Here's a rundown:

5th District: Under the Senate plan, U.S. Rep. Martin T. Meehan's district remains intact, including Lawrence and Lowell in the Merrimack Valley. Under the House plan, Meehan's district is merged with Salem-based U.S. Rep. John Tierney's 6th District, forcing a showdown between the two.

Southeastern district: The House plan creates a new 5th District, anchored by New Bedford and Fall River. The Senate plan does not include a new southeastern district, but puts most of the region in the 4th District, making it possible for a candidate from the area to emerge if incumbent Barney Frank (D-Newton) leaves.

Minority-majority district: House puts Lynn, Revere and Winthrop with Somerville and several of Boston's minority neighborhoods. Senate plan does not include Lynn, Revere or Winthrop but adds additional minority neighborhoods in Boston. Both plans feature a newly configured 8th District with 51 percent minority population - though fewer actual minority voters.

Republican opening: The House plan creates a better chance for Republicans to grab a seat if 7th District U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Malden) leaves, by grouping together communities along the high-tech Interstate 495 belt where voters tend to be more conservative. The Senate plan includes more traditionally Democratic communities in the 7th, like Revere and Winthrop and liberal Lincoln, Wellesley and Weston.

Boston Globe
Minorities Welcome US House Map Plan; Senate version seen aid to candidates in 8th
By Frank Phillips
September 25, 2001

Minority leaders yesterday applauded the Senate's plan for redrawing the state's congressional districts, saying it would create more opportunity for candidates of color than a proposal offered by House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran.

The Senate, like the House, would reshape the 8th District, represented by Democrat Michael Capuano of Somerville, to create a district where minority residents make up more than 50 percent of the population.

But unlike the House, the Senate joins those minority neighborhoods to liberal voting areas like Cambridge, which minority leaders believe would be more receptive to supporting minority candidates.

''The Senate plan is substantially different, not in terms of actual minority population, but when you see what white communities are included,'' said James E. Cofield Jr., chairman of the Redistricting Committee of the Black Political Task Force. ''The House's white areas are conservative, the Senate's are progressive.''

Unlike the House plan, the Senate map only tinkers with the edges of the state's 10 US House districts, keeping about 85 percent of the voters in their current districts.

The Senate would keep intact the 5th District represented by Martin Meehan, Democrat of Lowell. Finneran's plan, which surprised the state's political establishment when it was unveiled in July, would rip up Meehan's district, forcing him to run against US Representative John Tierney of Salem. Finneran said he came up with the idea because he believed Meehan would run for governor.

But Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham said, ''There is no reason to pit two incumbent congressmen against each other. That only serves to diminish our collective authority in Congress.''

The Senate would expand US Representative Barney Frank's 4th District to include more of fast-growing Southeastern Massachusetts, including Taunton. Under the plan, 65 percent of Frank's district would be in Bristol and Plymouth counties.

All of Brockton would be shifted into the 9th District, which until earlier this year was represented by J. Joseph Moakley of South Boston. Moakley died in May and South Boston state Senator Stephen F. Lynch is favored to succeed him.

Brockton had previously been split between the 9th and 10th districts.

''This map provides an opportunity for every region in the state to elect people to Congress who truly can represent them and their interests,'' said state Senator Stanley Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat and the Senate chair of the Legislature's Committee on Redistricting.

With the House and Senate maps expected to win approval in their respective branches, the decisions on the state's new congressional district lines will now move behind closed doors on Beacon Hill.

Birmingham and Finneran are likely to negotiate the finer points quietly in the fall and possibly into the winter.

Although the plans have sharp differences, most political insiders agreed Finneran set the parameters for debate by boldly putting forth his map before much of the discussion had begun.

That prodded the Senate to accommodate some regional interests, including Southeastern Massachusetts leaders' desire for a more cohesive seat.

Even though minority leaders praised the Senate map, the Senate leaders, like the House, failed to propose the creation of a district that not only has a majority of minority residents, but a majority of minority voters.

Senate leaders said they could not accomplish that while also meeting other goals, including retaining the state's influence on Capitol Hill by preserving basic district boundaries. The senators said if the US House were to swing back to Democratic control, some members of the all-Democratic delegation are poised to play prominent roles in a new Congress, including veterans Edward Markey of Malden and Frank, of Newton.

Boston Globe
Swift would veto redistricting plan:
Opposes split of Merrimack Valley region
By Frank Phillips 
August 23, 2001

In a significant shift, Acting Governor Jane M. Swift said yesterday she would veto House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran's redistricting plan because it splinters the Merrimack Valley into three congressional districts.

''I agree with the folks in the Merrimack Valley that Lowell and Lawrence and the Merrimack Valley should be kept intact as its own [5th] Congressional District,'' Swift said. ''Everybody recognizes that Lowell and Lawrence are the crucial communities in that district right now.''

Swift seemed unmoved by protests from the area last month when Finneran first unveiled his map, which shocked the state's political establishment, especially US Representative Martin Meehan of Lowell, who now represents the district.

For weeks, Merrimack Valley newspapers and politicians have been pressuring the acting governor to block the plan. Yesterday, she did not mention the speaker by name. But his map fits the precise description of what she said she would veto.

Swift's shift on the issue came after GOP analysts privately expressed fears that she risked alienating a region of the state where voters and media figures have strongly supported Republican candidates.

Former governor William F. Weld, whose 1990 election victory was in part attributed to an unexpectedly strong showing in the 5th District, made it a priority during the 1992 redistricting process to make sure it remained intact.

Finneran touched off a firestorm when he put forth his plan, which would create a new 5th District in Southeastern Massachusetts, while merging Lowell and Lawrence into the neighboring 6th District, which is represented by US Representative John Tierney of Salem. Other Merrimack Valley communities would be shifted to the districts of US Representatives James McGovern of Worcester and Edward Markey of Malden, both Democrats.

The speaker broke with a tradition of deference to incumbency and collegial consensus-building that normally prevails during the decennial redrawing of district lines. Finneran has been under fire since. Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham signaled earlier this month that the Senate will propose a plan that retains a separate 5th District in the Merrimack Valley, with Lowell and Lawrence at its center.

Swift's threat of a veto gives Birmingham much-needed leverage to block Finneran's plan. A bloc of senators from the North Shore and the Merrimack Valley has already come out strongly against the speaker's plan. With the added votes of six GOP senators, a Swift veto stands a good chance of being upheld.

Finneran was unavailable for comment yesterday. But his spokesman, Charles Rasmussen, reiterated the speaker's earlier comments that he will listen to all concerns that have been raised when the House takes up redistricting early this fall.

Meehan was not available for comment. His spokesman, Will Keyser, said the ''acting governor's comments are very helpful.''

However, some Democrats yesterday scoffed at Swift's threat of a veto. Democratic Party chairman Philip W. Johnston said the acting governor is a ''day late and dollar short'' with her new position.

''I think this will be worked out but I don't think Jane Swift will be a player,'' said Johnston, asserting there there is a consensus among Democrats that Tierney and Meehan should not be pitted against each other.

Finneran has said repeatedly that he eliminated the 5th District to create a new Boston-based district whose voting majority would be made up of minority residents, and a more compact district for Southeastern Massachusetts. He said he had assumed Meehan was running for governor and felt no responsibility to retain his district.

Several weeks later, Meehan, who had spent most of the year exploring a gubernatorial bid, said he would instead seek reelection and fight to save his district.

Finneran faced criticism that he was punishing Meehan, who has been a national leader on campaign finance reform and a strong advocate of the state's Clean Election Law. Finneran and his legislative colleagues strongly dislike the Clean Elections Law, which calls for public money to be given to candidates who agree to limit fund-raising and campaign spending.

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
August 13, 2001

Boston Brawling, Cont.

In a sign that Massachusetts' overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature could face a redistricting impasse, state Senate leaders last week sided with Rep. Marty Meehan (D) in his remap battle with state House Speaker Thomas Finneran (D).

Finneran last month proposed a new House map that would eliminate Meehan's Lowell-based district in northeast Massachusetts, forcing him into a primary face-off with nearby Rep. John Tierney (D).

Meeting with mayors of four of the largest towns in Tierney's 6th district, state Senate President Thomas Birmingham (D) said Finneran's plan would be a "mistake."

Birmingham and the mayors "did not see a need for two incumbent Congressmen to run together and they can envision a map which preserved both the 5th and 6th while also enabling them to pursue establishing a majority-minority district, while they still consolidate other districts," said Allison Franklin, a Birmingham spokeswoman.

Birmingham is an all-but-declared candidate in the gubernatorial primary that Meehan was pressured to forgo following Finneran's threats.

Birmingham's views were echoed Thursday by state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D), the chairman of the state Senate Redistricting Committee.

"There is significant concern in the state Senate about the dynamic of having two incumbents run against each other," Rosenberg said. "We're reviewing several maps, but the issue of incumbency is a significant concern."

Rosenberg said he hopes the state Senate will approve a map by late September and that both chambers can agree on a consensus plan by Nov. 21.

With Finneran showing no signs of backing off his plan, however, redistricting insiders say Rosenberg's schedule could be overly optimistic. Will Keyser, Meehan's senior adviser, said Birmingham's comments "were very helpful and encouraging. But I think we're realistic in knowing that the process really has just begun. We're still quite early in the game."

 
 
Associated Press
Meehan gains support
By Leslie Miller
August 10, 2001
 
U.S. Rep. Martin T. Meehan has picked up his most powerful ally to date in his battle to preserve his 5th Congressional District: state Senate President Thomas Birmingham.
 
Birmingham told four mayors that he opposes House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran's redistricting plan, which would eliminate Meehan's district and shove Meehan, D-Lowell, into a reshaped 6th District with Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Salem.

Birmingham opposes moving Lynn from Tierney's district to a Boston-dominated district with Revere and Nahant and combining the rest with Meehan's Merrimack Valley district.

"Lynn has a much stronger community of interest with the North Shore -- Salem, Peabody, Beverly -- than with Boston," Birmingham said Thursday. "Similarly, the Lawrence-Lowell district has had historical communities of interest that ought to be respected."

One of Finneran's rationales for abolishing Meehan's district was that it would allow the Southeastern part of the state to have its own district comprising Fall River, New Bedford, Brockton and Taunton. Currently, Southeastern Massachusetts is divided into four ribbon-like districts.

Birmingham said a Southeastern Massachusetts district could be created, at least in part, without eliminating the Merrimack Valley district.

"We can substantially accommodate some of those needs as well," Birmingham said.

After Finneran's plan was released last month, Meehan dropped out of next year's gubernatorial race. He's been at the State House this week, lobbying the lawmakers who will determine the fate of his seat.

Senate leaders will take up redistricting next month, after all new precinct lines have been approved.

Officials from Meehan's and Tierney's districts oppose Finneran's plan, as do a coalition of minority activists, who say it won't achieve Finneran's stated purpose of a "majority minority" district.

Birmingham said he supports a majority-minority district, but doesn't think Finneran's plan is the best way to do it.

"I would like to do something like that," he said. "I think there are other ways to skin that cat."

Finneran said the criticisms "are all well taken," but he has no comment until he sees a total plan.

"You can't say, 'In the 5th District you should do it this way,' without a presentation of the whole," Finneran said.

The state's congressmen, including Meehan, have been meeting with Birmingham in the past week to discuss the new Congressional map.

"Marty has had a number of productive meetings this week, but there have been no commitments on the issue," said Meehan's spokesman, Will Keyser.

 
Associated Press
Minority groups criticize Finneran's plan to redistrict
By Leslie Miller
July 31, 2001 

A statewide voting rights coalition lashed out at House Speaker Thomas Finneran on Monday for his redistricting plan, which they say will dilute the impact of minority votes.
 
Finneran wants to take Cambridge out of the 8th District, which includes parts of Boston and Somerville, and add Lynn, Revere, Winthrop and Nahant to make the 8th a so-called "majority-minority" district.

"What Finneran is doing is a minority-vote dilution scheme," said Malia Lazu, project director of Boston VOTE.

Finneran, a Democrat, said creating a district where minorities make up more than half the electorate was one of his three goals; the others were to create coherent and compact districts and to keep cities and towns whole.

A Finneran spokesman said the Speaker is glad to see more and more people involved in the redistricting process.

"Welcome in! The more the merrier," said spokesman Charles Rasmussen.

Boston Rep. Byron Rushing, a Democrat, has said Finneran's proposed district would not improve the chances of a minority candidate winning a Congressional election. Michael Capuano, who represents the 8th District, has said he supports the idea of a majority-minority district -- but that Finneran's proposal was the wrong one.

Until Monday, most of the criticism of Finneran's plan has been directed at its failure to protect incumbents. If approved as is, the plan would essentially wipe out U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan's 5th district in the Merrimack Valley and force him to run for re-election in the 6th District against fellow Democrat John Tierney.

The Statewide Voting Rights Redistricting Coalition 2000, which conducted its own analysis based on 2000 U.S. Census data, said between 57 percent and 60 percent of the eligible voters in the proposed district are white.

The group analyzed voting patterns for the last ballot questions to define communities of interest. It found the voters in Lynn, Nahant, Winthrop and Revere were more likely to vote with conservative white voters on key 2000 ballot questions affecting taxes, drug policy and prisoner voting rights than they were with minority voters in Boston.

The parts of Boston that Finneran would remove from the 8th District -- Back Bay, Jamaica Plain and Allston-Brighton -- had more in common with minority voters in Boston on those issues.

"Communities of interest are more intact currently than they are under Speaker Finneran's proposed map," said James Cofield, Jr., an attorney with the Black Political Task Force, a Boston organization formed in the last redistricting a decade ago.

The coalition also said the new map lessened the compactness of the 8th district by taking out the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain and adding Nahant, a nearly all-white community that juts out into Boston Harbor.

The coalition said it would propose a map that empowers communities of interest by mid-September, before the Senate reveals its own redistricting plan. The full House must first approve Finneran's proposal before it goes to the Senate.


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