Districting Advisory Board Will Recommend New Precinct And District Boundaries After Reviewing 2020 Census Data


Current Amherst voting districts. Photo: amherstma.gov

Source: Amherst Districting Advisory Board to review the 2020 U.S. Census data for Amherst and population changes since 2010, and will recommend the redrawing of voting precinct and district boundary lines to reflect the new data. The board will submit a report and a proposed precinct and district map to the tTown Council in October for approval. The public is invited to submit questions or concerns to Amherst Town Clerk and board liaison Susan Audette with a subject line DAB at (townclerk@amherstma.gov) or during the public comment period of the DAB’s weekly meetings. The Zoom link for the meetings can be found on the amherstma.gov meeting calendar. Any submitted comments will be forwarded to the DAB members.

The DAB is composed of nine voting members who are residents of Amherst and three non-voting members (town clerk, a member of the town’s Board of Registrars, and a member of the town’s IT staff). At least one of the voting members must come from each of the existing five Districts and there can be no more than two (2) from any district. The DAB currently still has one vacancy, which can be filled either by a resident of District 4 or a resident of District 5. DAB members are appointed for one year, but the DAB’s work is expected to be completed this fall. 

Anyone interested in filling the DAB vacancy can apply to the Town Council’s Governance, Organization, and Legislation (GOL) Committee. The application form is available here.

The purpose of the DAB is to review the existing voting precincts and districts, and propose changes if necessary to such districts to ensure their uniformity in the number of inhabitants and conformity with local,state, and federal laws. A copy of the charge is here.

This is not just a local issue, as municipal precincts and districts are the building blocks of congressional and state legislative voting districts. State law requires that every  city and town create new voting precinct boundaries every 10 years that take into consideration population, communities of interest, and state and federal requirements, among other considerations. Guidance from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office states that when determining districts, “The government may not unfairly dilute minority voting strength, nor may it make race the predominant factor in redistricting absent a compelling state interest.”

In its evaluation, and work on recommendations, the Amherst DAB will need to consider both current
conditions and future plans for the town, including planned construction. Other requirements during redistricting include:

* Making sure precincts are bounded by the center-line of streets or other well-defined boundaries such as streams or other bodies of water, railroad tracks, power lines, or other clearly visible geographic figures;

* No precinct can contain more than 4,000 residents, and

* All precincts’ populations must be within five percent (5%) of the average precinct population for the town.

As shown by recent U.S. Census figures, the population in Amherst is growing and diversifying. The DAB will be considering these trends. The Town Council will vote on the DAB’s recommendations and then submit a final map showing updated precincts and districts to the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. The final map must be submitted by the end of October 2021. Interactive maps showing the Census data, and the other materials that the DAB are using during this process, are available on the DAB committee webpage, and in the DAB meeting packets.

For more information, please visit this website or contact the DAB via email (with DAB in the subject line).

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