THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Secretary of state’s erroneous population data rile Boston

Secretary of State William Galvin held a second press conference to correct data that showed Boston lost population in the most recent decade. Secretary of State William Galvin held a second press conference to correct data that showed Boston lost population in the most recent decade. (John Tlumacki/ Globe Staff)
By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / March 23, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

Secretary of State William F. Galvin is the self-described chief information officer of Massachusetts. A master of legislative and political arcana, he often referees complex disputes over elections and lobbying rules, citing chapter and verse of state law.

But yesterday Galvin goofed, in a rare high-profile embarrassment for his office.

Standing before television cameras and a poster-size chart of newly released census figures, he incorrectly reported that Boston lost population in the last decade.

The drop was immediately reported on some news websites and on Twitter.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino was furious. “We are confident that our population continues to grow,’’ said Dot Joyce, the mayor’s spokeswoman. “Boston is a growing, vibrant city.’’

Representative Michael J. Moran, the Brighton Democrat who is House chairman of the Redistricting Committee, was also incensed. “I would never want to rush out and provide numbers if those numbers were not correct,’’ he said.

Galvin recognized almost immediately that he had made a mistake and called another press conference with another poster-size chart to release the correct figures later in the afternoon.

He explained that the software his office had used to add up the numbers erroneously read some urban census tracts as having no population when, in fact, they did. All told, his initial numbers were short by about 87,000 people statewide.

“Obviously, I apologize,’’ Galvin said at his second press conference.

“I regret that I misinformed anyone. But we were attempting to get the numbers out as quickly as possible, and it just shows you: In the interest of haste, always check your math.’’

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com.