There was a lot to digest at the special meeting of the City Council held on November 3 when Assistant City Clerk Peter Napolitano outlined the proposed precinct changes that will go into effect next year.
The major news is that there will be an increase of precincts from the present 12 precincts, which presently are spread across the city’s six wards, to 18 precincts. The increase in the number of precincts is required under state and federal law because of the increase in the city’s population to 49,075 according to the 2020 U.S. Census.
With the city running up against the clock to devise a new precinct alignment, Napolitano said that he has been working with attorneys from the state to determine the new ward lines. He noted that each precinct must have approximately 2,725 people (49,075 divided by 18) with a permitted deviation of no more than plus or minus five percent. The census does not take into account how many people are voters or non-voters.
After Napolitano laid out the basics, the councillors delved into the details and examined the pros and cons of the proposal.
One of the more obvious problems was where the voting locations will be located.
“This is confusing to people at home and we need to establish the polling locations and send out notifications of these addresses to the voters,” said Councillor-at-Large Richard Dell Isola.
“We intend to do so as quickly as possible,” Napolitano assured Dellisola.
Councillor John Hanlon had issues with the wording for the new precinct boundaries.
“This is a good plan, but I am against the wording and description,” Hanlon said. He then pointed out that if one takes Hampshire Street as an example, the right side of the street is in one ward and the left side of the street is in another ward. However, the wording does not convey this fact.
Ward 5 Councillor Rosa DiFlorio bluntly voiced her feelings. “I hate this process,” she said. “It is just being shoved down our throats.”
However, City Solicitor Colleen Mejia noted, “The state officials drafted the ordinances and wrote the language.”
“For the most part, the current wards will stay the same, except for a few streets here and there,” Napolitano pointed out. He also noted that no elected officials took part in the re-precincting plan — it was put together solely by eight lawyers from the state.
Another area of concern was that the re-precincting plan does not take into account the new housing projects that are being constructed in different parts of the city. The increase in population because of these buildings will skew the equality count in each precinct, probably above the five percent range.
Councillors also heard that the redistricting process by the state legislature will move two precincts, Ward 1, Precinct 3 and Ward 2, Precinct 1, from Everett into the district of State Representative Dan Ryan of Charlestown.
The new precincting format will remain in effect until the next federal census is conducted in 10 years. The council voted 6 to 1 to approve the re-precincting plan