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City Council votes 7-6 for Linehan map

As the threat of a lawsuit loomed, the City Council voted 7-6 on Wednesday in support of District 2 Councillor Bill Linehan's proposal to redraw the city's council district boundaries.

Voting in favor for the map: Linehan; City Council President Stephen Murphy; District 3 Councillor Frank Baker, who represents Dorchester; and District 5 Councillor Rob Consalvo, who represents part of Mattapan. They were joined by District Councillors Mark Ciommo, Sal LaMattina and Matt O'Malley.

Voting against the map: City Councillors At-Large Ayanna Pressley, Felix Arroyo and John Connolly; and City Councillors Tito Jackson (District 7), Charles Yancey (District 4) and Michael Ross (District 8).

The map now heads to Mayor Thomas Menino’s desk. If Menino breaks out the veto pen, Linehan map supporters will need an additional two votes to override him, according to a coalition critical of Linehan's map.

The coalition, made up of community and civic groups, has vowed to take the city to court if the map passes. The coalition argues the Linehan map violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in part due to the high concentration of people of color in District 4.

The changes in the map include moving the Polish Triangle precincts in Dorchester from District 2 to District 3 and splitting Lower Mills between District 3 and District 4.

In his speech to the Council, Linehan pushed back on the assertion that the map disenfranches minority voters.

Explaining her vote against the map, Pressley pointed to the looming lawsuit, calling it a "real threat." "I ask that we go back to the drawing board one more time," she said.

But Yancey's motion to table the vote until the next council meeting in September failed by an 8-5 vote.

Former City Hall aide James Chisholm, now a vice president at Resolute Consulting, said the vote could be charted from the outset. He noted that redistricting activists were unlikely to get behind a Linehan plan that didn’t increase the chance for more minority-majority districts.

But the city’s geography – which ensures the existence of council districts for Allston/Brighton, East Boston and Charlestown and South Boston – makes redrawing the boundaries a difficult task and councillors are not going to accept a plan that will end up with them kicked out of office, he said. “I think part of the problem there is no simple solution here,” he added.

One potential solution, he said, is for the city to return to a completely city-wide model, where all 13 councillors serve at-large. Currently, there are nine district councillors and four councillors at-large.

The elections of Arroyo and Pressley, who topped the at-large ticket in 2011, have shown “candidates of color can win citywide, said Chisholm, a former Pressley aide.