Springfield, MA: Racial geography complicates districting

by Jack Santucci // Published March 14, 2007
Via Ed Still today at Votelaw:

Massachusetts: judge questions redistricting plan

The Springfield Republican reports: Shifting population trends have complicated a federal voting rights trial, prompting a judge yesterday to question the wisdom of a proposed redistricting plan designed to benefit blacks and Latinos.

U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor yesterday peppered a witness with questions about a proposal to create nine voting districts across the city, wondering whether the plan would truly advance equal voting rights.

This situation simply cries out for a proportional voting remedy. Some electoral systems experts with special interest in the VRA are quick to argue that majority-minority, winner-take-all districts are the surest way to ensure 'fair' minority representation. That's true as long as voter choice and high turnout are second-order desiderata.

Until the target population, now a demographic majority, is so concentrated as to make a ward system absurd. Under wards, the town's white minority likely would control majorities on the School Committee and City Council.

From the Springfield Republican:

Under the plaintiff's plan, council districts one through four encompass black and Latino voting majorities ranging from roughly 55 to 80 percent. Districts five through nine are populated with white voting majorities ranging from 64 to 84 percent, their figures show...

...Blacks and Latinos now represent a "minority majority," figures show. The white population has dipped from 64 percent in 1990 to around 48 percent.