The Boston City Council’s president, Stephen J. Murphy, has tapped an attorney with expertise in voting rights to help with redistricting after Mayor Thomas M. Menino vetoed the council’s map.
The attorney, H. Reed Witherby, advised the state Senate when it redrew congressional and Senate districts after the 2000 Census. Witherby also taught a seminar on voting rights law in 2001 at Northeastern University School of Law, and has lectured about minority vote dilution, according to his biography on the website of Smith, Duggan, Buell, & Rufo LLP, where Witherby is a partner.
“We thought it would be best to have somebody with a historical and legal perspective work with the committee over the next few weeks,” Murphy said Monday in an interview. “We need to get this right.”
Expertise about vote dilution in the African-American, Hispanic, and Asian communities will be important in Boston, where the City Council has been criticized by advocacy groups for allegedly packing too many people of color in one district. Menino vetoed the council’s redistricting map earlier this month because, he wrote, “the plan concentrates our many citizens of color into too few districts, and in doing so may limit their equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”
The City Council approved a redistricting plan last month by a 7-to-6 vote, with all four councilors of color opposed.
A coalition of local organizations representing communities of color vowed to sue the city if the map became law. The groups included the NAACP, Chinese Progressive Association, and Oiste, a statewide Latino civic organization.
Witherby’s appointment must be approved Wednesday by a majority vote of the 13-member City Council. His contract will have a limit of $5,000, Murphy said. The redistricting committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.