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Councilors sparring over redistricting maps

Yawu Miller | 11/29/2011, 5:50 p.m.

“It really does have the feel of an incumbency protection process,” comments Alejandra St. Guillen, executive director of ¿Oiste? a Latino political organization.

According to the city charter, the council is charged with redrawing district lines every 10 years after the release of the U.S. Census. Because the population of Boston has shifted to the north, with the construction of new housing in downtown and on the waterfront, council districts in the north now have a greater population than those in the south.

While each of the nine districts must have 68,621 people in order to ensure each person’s vote is counted equally, Linehan’s district now has 74,039 people.

In order to lose 5,418 people, Linehan’s district must cut at least two precincts.

While there have been three redistricting processes since the council switched from an entirely at-large system to nine district seats and four at-large in 1982, the district lines have changed little, notes Yancey.

“We’re living in a city that’s much more diverse than it was in 1982,” he says. “It poses both a problem and an opportunity. The problem is that the incumbents don’t want change. The opportunity is to come up with a redistricting plan that creates five districts that are majority people of color.”

Lowe, who is working with ¿Oiste?, the Boston Branch of the NAACP and other groups, says her coalition will likely propose its own maps.

The council will likely vote on a new map in the spring.