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A second Boston city councilor is financially backing redistricting litigation

State campaign finance records show Boston City Council President Ed Flynn last month gave $10,000 to a law firm that is leading a federal legal challenge over redistricting.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

In the latest sign of a rift over redistricting on the Boston City Council, state campaign finance records show council president Ed Flynn last month gave $10,000 to a law firm that is leading a federal legal challenge over how the new boundaries were drawn.

Flynn became the second councilor to help bankroll the litigation, following Frank Baker, who also donated $10,000 from his campaign account last December to help with the lawsuit, which names the city, Mayor Michelle Wu, the City Council, and the city’s election head as defendants.

During a phone interview Thursday, Flynn confirmed that contribution was to support the litigation, but declined to discuss the matter further, saying he did not comment on court matters that are still ongoing.


“I’m not going to comment about redistricting,” said Flynn, whose district includes most of South Boston, where the redistricting process was particularly controversial.

Despite being approved last year, redistricting continues to draw lines in Boston politics — between a new crop of progressive politicians and more established and moderate political power brokers.

Just this week, Flynn and Councilor Ricardo Arroyo had a spat over redistricting during Wednesday’s council meeting.

Last fall, after weeks of painful and deeply personal debate, the council approved a new map that reshuffled thousands of voters among council districts, aiming to amplify the political power of communities of color while carving up some white neighborhoods in two historical power centers, Dorchester and South Boston.

Flynn and Baker were among the four councilors, all of whom are white, to vote against the redistricting map in early November.

Supporters said the map would strengthen political opportunities for people of color in a city long run by white voters and white elected officials. But critics objected to the domino effects those efforts had in other parts of the city. The new map, for example, splits between two council districts the Anne Lynch Homes at Old Colony, a Southie housing development named after US Representative Stephen Lynch’s mother — a move critics argue could muffle the political voice of its residents.


The redistricting process requires Boston to roughly equalize the population in each of its nine City Council districts to account for swells and shifts captured in each decennial census. As they redraw the maps, councilors must balance a great deal of competing interests, including their own self-interests.

There is the reality of the city’s knotted neighborhood geography, the desire to keep communities whole within single districts, and a legal mandate, under the federal Voting Rights Act, to draw districts that empower people of color to elect their candidates of choice without being outnumbered by a decisive white voting bloc.

But, originally filed in Suffolk Superior Court last November, the legal complaint that is challenging redistricting alleges the City Council violated the open meeting law three times last October while discussing redistricting and violated the city charter, the Voting Rights Act, and the US Constitution.

The list of plaintiffs in the suit includes residents from South Boston, Dorchester, Mission Hill, and Mattapan, as well as a handful of South Boston civic associations.

The lawsuit asserts that the entire redistricting process lacked transparency. It also stated that both the public and the councilors were not afforded an opportunity to view or offer feedback in a public hearing on the final map, which, according to the complaint, would dilute Black voting power in District 4, which includes Mattapan, Dorchester, and parts of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale, for “no reason.”


Attorneys for the city batted away the suit’s claims in court filings, arguing that the case is deeply flawed and that a judicial review of redistricting legislation would represent a “serious intrusion on the most vital of local functions.” The redistricting plan, they say, was enacted following an “informed and carefully prescribed legal process codified” in the city charter.

“They fail to even allege the most basic elements of their claims, and certainly do not provide the Court with the record or statistical evidence necessary to support them,” read one filing from the defendants.

Emma Platoff of Globe staff contributed to this report.

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him @Danny__McDonald.