Sen. Brown backs creation of Mass. minority House district

Posted April 27, 2011, at 9:26 p.m.

BOSTON — U.S. Sen. Scott Brown urged state lawmakers to consider creating a congressional seat based in Suffolk County that would have a majority of black, Latino, Asian and other minority voters.

The Massachusetts Republican said Wednesday that a so-called “majority-minority district” would be in keeping with the federal Voting Rights Act, and will ensure that “no person’s political power is diminished because of the color of their skin.”

A co-chairman of the 24-member legislative committee charged with drawing the map said lawmakers already are committed to adhering to federal voting rights laws.

Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston, noted that the state already has a congressional district centered on Suffolk County designed to concentrate minority residents. The seat in that district, the state’s 8th Congressional, is currently held by Rep. Michael Capuano.

Brown said the state’s current congressional map includes districts that are not geographically compact and whose lines swerve around irrationally. He said the only logical conclusion is that those districts were drawn to protect incumbents.

“It is my hope that any redistricting for congressional or state legislative seats will result in districts that avoid diluting the voting strength of citizens based on the color of their skin,” Brown said in a letter to Moran and fellow committee chairman Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst.

The state is losing one of its 10 congressional seats after population growth in Massachusetts during the past decade failed to keep up with surging growth in other parts of the country.

All 10 seats are currently held by Democrats.

Brown also urged the Legislature to try to create a number of “state Senate and House seats where persons of color constitute a majority vote.”

“I believe you have already heard on this matter from many advocacy groups representing minority voters in Massachusetts, as well as from other concerned citizens, and I want to add my voice to theirs,” he wrote.

According to the U.S. Census, Massachusetts saw its Latino and Asian American population each jump 46 percent over the last 10 years.

The state’s black population — mainly driven by immigrants from Haiti — saw a rise of 26 percent, while the white population fell by 1.9 percent, census data showed.

Moran said his committee understands the importance of federal voting rights laws.

“I know the senator spends a lot of time in Washington, but if he had been paying attention to the debate, he would understand that one of the issues that we care about is the Voting Rights Act and ensuring that our maps do in fact comply,” he said.

Moran also said that it’s not clear from the information the committee has received so far that it’s even possible to create the kind of district described by Brown.

“With the initial numbers, it would appear that it would be very difficult to get to a place where we have a majority minority district,” Moran said. “But we are committed to that as a principle in the process.”

Rosenberg said it’s still very early in the process. The committee has scheduled its third public hearing in Brockton on Monday and is planning an additional 10 hearings after that.

He said the committee is hoping to have the congressional map drawn by Thanksgiving and the House and Senate state legislative maps completed before the congressional map.

“We’re still very much in the homework stage,” Rosenberg said.

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