BOSTON — Congressman John Tierney would pick up the cities of Lawrence and Haverhill while maintaining a district focused on the North Shore under a redrawn Congressional district map being proposed by a nonpartisan group of Massachusetts voters.
Two proposed scenarios unveiled this week by Fair Districts Massachusetts would see Tierney's 6th district encompassing the two Merrimack Valley cities, which are now part of Rep. Niki Tsongas' 5th district.
Tsongas' district, which would still include Lowell, would be extended west along the New Hampshire border to include many more conservative suburbs.
Fair Districts this week presented a glimpse of what redrawn Congressional district maps could look like for the 2012 election. Its proposals could see incumbent Democrats pitted against one another, opportunities opening up for Republicans and the creation of what the group said would be the first majority-minority district in state history.
Jack E. Robinson, chairman of Fair Districts Massachusetts, and Rep. Daniel Winslow, a Norfolk Republican serving as legal counsel to the nonpartisan group, presented two versions of what a remade political map could look like based on 2010 census data that will force the Legislature to eliminate one of the state's 10 seats in Congress.
"It's not the only one, but based on our analysis, it's one that can be justified and defended," Winslow said, explaining that there could be other legal permutations of the map that achieve similar goals of creating compact districts of similar communities with one district encapsulating a majority of non-white voters.
He called the maps a "precondition to litigation" should Fair Districts Massachusetts decide to challenge the constitutionality of the final redistricting proposal that the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick are expected to agree on sometime later this year.
"My motivation is empowering voters and making sure the civil rights of the voters of Massachusetts are adhered to and not done simply in the halls of power," Winslow said, adding that he had "no illusion" that one of the plans would be adopted by Democrats who control the redistricting efforts.
Both of Fair Districts' plans could jeopardize the political careers of Democratic incumbents from the state's congressional delegation, threatening the seniority and clout built up over the years in the House, where several members could become chairmen of powerful budget and appropriations committees if Democrats retake the House.
"Politically, all of the congressmen are ranking members, but in a Republican-controlled House, being a ranking member doesn't help you," said Robinson, a former Republican turned independent who has run for multiple state offices.
It could be argued that many of the new districts proposed by the group would also put several seats in play for Republican candidates by redistributing several Democratic urban strongholds like Lawrence and New Bedford to new districts, some without an incumbent.
"We really didn't look at the political impacts," Robinson said.
Winslow said the new districts would not preclude incumbents from seeking office in a new region. Under federal law, congressional candidates are also not required to live in the district they seek to represent.
Under both plans, western Massachusetts would be consolidated into a single district, potentially forcing incumbent Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield and Rep. John Olver of Amherst to run against each other in 2012.
Both plans consist of nine districts based on population totals from the 2010 Census that either reflected the perfect district size, or deviated by one person. Details of the redrawn districts are available at www.fairdistrictsmass.org.
Under Plan A, Boston and Cambridge would be consolidated into a single district of minority-influence, leaving Reps. Michael Capuano, Barney Frank and Edward Markey in a single district that wraps around the two cities from the north, including Somerville, Newton and Malden.
That plan would also reconfigure freshman Rep. William Keating's district to include Quincy and the metrowest suburbs, while creating a South Shore-Cape Cod district with no incumbent congressman and a Bristol County district combining the cities of New Bedford and Fall River that are currently represented by Frank and Rep. James McGovern.
"We would argue the cities of Fall River and New Bedford have more in common with each other than the cities of Newton and New Bedford," Robinson said.
Plan B would create a majority-minority district including a majority of Boston and stretching north along the coast through Everett and Chelsea to Lynn.
The second option would also put Capuano and Frank into the same district, and Rep. Stephen Lynch of South Boston and Keating of Quincy into the same district.
"Incumbent protection is not a legal standard, so this is a legally flawless plan to maximize voter power, not incumbent power," Winslow said.
When drawing the maps, Winslow and Robinson said their consultant considered population, minority influence and compactness with communities of interest.
Winslow and Robinson declined to name the consultants they hired to draw the maps or who had donated to the organization to pay their fees, citing an opinion from the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance that ruled they did not have to disclose contributions, which are unlimited.
Robinson acknowledged that he was fundraising and he had contributed $75,000 to $100,000 of his own money to the effort, and Winslow said the consultant would be "disclosed in due course" if a legal challenge of the Legislature's eventual redistricting plan goes to court.