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Bid to boost number of minority districts backed

By Michael Norton
State House News Service / July 12, 2011

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Two groups representing minority voters endorsed plans yesterday to make Boston the heart of a majority-minority congressional district, with one organization also outlining plans to more than double the number of majority-minority state legislative districts to 22.

Massachusetts will lose one of its 10 congressional seats, and a 28-member legislative panel yesterday was wrapping up its last public hearing before redrawing districts. That process will require all of the districts to grow and could end with members of the state’s congressional delegation running against each other.

Showing lawmakers do not relish pitting incumbents against each other, the committee’s cochairman, state Senator Stanley Rosenberg, joked that if a House incumbent ran for US Senate “that might solve our problem.’’

The proposals to boost minority representation were outlined at an event called by the Black Empowerment Coalition, which met with members of the Legislature’s Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, and the Drawing Democracy Coalition.

Minorities account for 20 percent of the state’s population but hold 5 percent of seats in the Legislature, according to Kevin Peterson, cochairman of the Mass Black Empowerment Coalition and executive director of the New Democracy Coalition, a Boston civic rights group.

New majority-minority state House seats would be based in Brockton, Chelsea, Randolph, Lawrence, Lynn, and Worcester, along with two new majority-minority House seats in Springfield, according to Peterson, who joined other coalition members to brief state Representatives Benjamin Swan, Democrat of Springfield; Byron Rushing, Democrat of the South End; Linda Dorcena Forry, Democrat of Dorchester; Marcos Devers, Democrat of Lawrence; and Carlos Henriques, Democrat of Dorchester.

In the Senate, there would be two new majority-minority state Senate seats in Boston, including a majority-minority African-American seat comprising the old Second Suffolk District created in 1970 and featuring the Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, and Roslindale areas of the city.

A new “progressive Boston’’ Senate seat would include parts of Boston, Jamaica Plain, the South End, the Back Bay, and Brookline.