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How Will New Precincts Affect Voters?

With 2010 US Census numbers complete new legislative districts have been drawn up and are affecting Andover in a unique way.

How will new voting precincts affect voters in Andover?

Andover will still consist of 9 precincts. However, precinct lines have changed and many residents will be represented by different legislative districts than they were in the past decade.

The most noticeable change is the fact that Andover will now be split into two different congressional districts; the newly formed 3rd and 6th districts now represented by Congressmwoman Niki Tsongas and congressman John Tierney, respectively. With this change, precincts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 will sit in the 3rd district and 1 and 8 will sit in the 6th district.

However, precincts 7 and 9 are split between the two congressional districts, meaning both precincts will have two separate ballots and residents will need to figure out where they stand within their precinct.

Also, there is a change in the State Representative Districts. Before the new district lines, precincts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9 were represented by the 17th Essex District state rep while precincts 1, 7 and 8 were represented by 18th Essex District state rep. Both of these legislative districts were changed dramatically and now take on different areas of Merrimack Valley. Precincts 2, 3 and 4 are in the new 17th Essex District while Precincts 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are in the new 18th Essex District.

 

Here is a letter written by Town Clerk Larry Murphy explaining the entire change:

Effective January 1, 2012 Andover’s precinct lines are changed. We do remain at 9 precincts, but with new and different boundaries. Our state representative districts are also changed. In addition, Andover is now split between the newly created 3rd and 6th Congressional Districts. The purpose of this article is to explain the redistricting process and the results.

Every ten years the Federal government conducts a national census. This was last done in 2010. The year following the Federal census, Massachusetts towns are required to review their precincts based on the Federal census population numbers. The idea is simple in concept. You take the population number from the Federal census and divide that by the total number of precincts. This gives you the so-called “target population” for each precinct. No precinct can have more than 4,000 residents.

Andover’s population according to the 2010 Federal census is 33,201. Dividing that by 9 we arrived at a target population for each precinct of 3,689 residents. In re-drawing the precincts we are permitted to vary the population for each precinct by plus or minus 5% of the target population. This means that each Andover precinct has to have a minimum of 3,505 residents and a maximum of 3,873 residents. Our goal was to maintain as nearly as possible the existing precinct boundary lines so as to impact the fewest number of voters. We were largely successful. Approximately 95% of Andover’s registered voters will remain in their same voting precinct. Only about 5% of registered voters will be voting in a new precinct. Municipal reprecincting was completed state wide last summer.

Once municipal reprecincting was completed the legislature turned to the task of redrawing the State Senatorial and Representative Districts. Andover remains in the 2nd Essex and Middlesex Senatorial District. We have seen a change in our State Representative Districts. Prior to the change Precincts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 9 were in the 17th Essex District while Precincts 1, 7 & 8 were in the 18th Essex District. The 17th & 18th Essex Districts were dramatically changed under the new redistricting plan. Precincts 2, 3 & 4 are now in the new 17th Essex District while Precincts 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 are now in the new 18th Essex District.

Maps of the new State Senate and Representative Districts can be found on the Massachusetts General Court web site at www.malegislature.gov by choosing “Redistricting” on the home page.

Massachusetts lost a seat in the U.S. Congress based on the 2010 Federal census. The Massachusetts Congressional delegation was reduced from ten seats to nine seats. The Special Joint Committee on Redistricting, a joint committee of the Massachusetts Senate and House, was tasked with creating the new Congressional Districts. The Joint Committee chose to go with, as nearly as possible, zero deviation from the “target population” for each new Congressional District. Of the nine new Congressional Districts created six have populations of 727,514 while three have populations of 727,515.

The Joint Committee’s insistence on zero population deviation between Congressional Districts created unfortunate results for a number of Massachusetts communities, including Andover. Before redistricting, Andover had been entirely in the old 5th Congressional District. Andover now finds itself split between the newly created 3rd and 6th Congressional Districts. We are not just split along precinct lines. Andover, like nine other Massachusetts communities, finds itself with a split within its precincts between Congressional Districts. Precincts 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 are entirely within the new 3rd Congressional District. Precincts 1 & 8 are entirely within the new 6th Congressional District. Precinct 7 is split with roughly three-fourths of the population in the 3rd Congressional District and the remainder in the 6th Congressional District. Precinct 9 is also split with 3,610 residents of Precinct 9 in the 3rd Congressional District and one neighborhood of 14 residents in the 6th Congressional District.

Maps of the new 3rd and 6th Congressional Districts can be found on the Massachusetts General Court web site at www.malegislature.gov by choosing “Redistricting” on the home page.

The Special Joint Committee on Redistricting released its Congressional Districts redistricting plan on November 7th with a one week public comment period before it was scheduled to go to the full legislature for approval. I communicated with the Committee on November 10th expressing my concern with the plan, especially the inconvenience to the public, and the difficulties and additional cost involved with managing split precincts on election day. I pointed out to the Joint Committee that splitting Andover’s Precincts 7 and 9 between the 3rd and 6th Congressional Districts could be avoided by allowing a 1/10 of 1% variation from the target populations for the 3rd and 6th Districts; and that Andover could be placed wholly within the 3rd Congressional District with a modest 1.12% variation from the target populations for these Districts. Despite my objections, and those of others with similar concerns, the plan was adopted by the legislature and signed into law.

            Splitting precincts between Congressional Districts presents challenges for elections with seats in the 3rd or 6th Congressional Districts on the ballot. In 2012 we have two such elections, the State Primary in September and the Presidential Election in November; (the March 6th Presidential Primary and the March 27th Annual Town Election do not have Congressional seats on the ballot).

We will be using several different ballots for elections with Congressional races:

  • The ballot for Precincts 2, 3, & 4 will include the 17th Essex State Representative District and the 3rd Congressional District;
  • The ballot for Precincts 5, & 6 and most of Precincts 7 & 9 will include the 18th Essex State Representative District and the 3rd Congressional District;
  • The ballot for Precincts 1 & 8 and portions of Precincts 7 & 9 will include the 18th Essex State Representative District and the 6th Congressional District.

As you can see from the above, voters in Precincts 7 & 9 will not all receive the same ballot this year for the September State Primary Election or the November Presidential Election. We will take steps to educate the effected voters. Precinct 9 is the easier to deal with because of the small number of voters in that precinct who will be taking the ballot for the 6th Congressional District. I plan to reach out to those voters personally. Precinct 7 is more problematic because of the relatively large number of voters who will be receiving the ballot for the 6th Congressional District. We will have to divide Precinct 7 into two sub-precincts, 7A & 7B, with separate voter lists and check-in tables at the polling place. We will send out written notices to all effected households.

The new precinct map, including the Congressional Districts, can be found on the Town web site at www.andoverma.gov. The map can be found in the “What’s New” section of the home page by choosing “New Andover Voting Precincts”. The map can also be found on the Town Clerk’s web page. Voters can also search for their precinct by address by going to the Town Clerk’s web page. Under “Main Menu” on the Town web site home page; choose “Department Directory”, then “Town Clerk”, then “Precinct Search”. This will bring you to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s web site where you can search for your precinct by address.

If you have questions please contact the Town Clerk’s Office at 978-623-8255 or by e-mail at lmurphy@andoverma.gov or townclerk@andoverma.gov.

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