Activists Call For New Boston Precinct Map

By Andrea Smardon

May 4, 2011

BOSTON — Voting rights advocates are asking the City of Boston to draw a new precinct map. A letter signed by two-dozen civil rights and community groups was delivered Tuesday to Mayor Tom Menino, and the Boston Elections Departmenturging the city to update precinct boundaries based on 2010 US Census data.
Every city in Massachusetts is required to redraw its voting precincts every 10 years — except for Boston. A law passed in the 1920s exempted Boston from updating its precinct boundaries.

A map shows Boston's wards and precincts. (Click for larger view.)

Cheryl Crawford is Program Director for MassVote, a voting rights organization. She said Boston has undergone some major population shifts, and the precincts need to be updated to reflect that.
“In the past 70 years, the landscape of Boston has changed dramatically. The waterfront has built up. Chinatown has built up. You have these areas that have grown tremendously over other areas. Some people wait in line 20 minutes on Election Day. Some people wait in line two hours… which then causes people to leave,” Crawford said.

Crawford estimates Boston’s precincts could be consolidated from 254 to less than 200, saving the city tens of thousands of dollars every election. But the request for a new precinct map comes at a time when officials are focused on redrawing other, bigger districts.
Boston City Councilor Maureen Feeney is on the redistricting committee. She said the city, state and federal district lines must be determined before they can think about redrawing the precincts within those districts.
“This is going to require a lot of focus, a lot of attention, and, I suspect, quite a bit of time. I think, because of the various governmental entities that are redistricting right now, for us to try to re-precinct could really become problematic,” Feeney said.

According to Feeney, the redistricting committee will likely address the question of when the city may update its precinct boundaries at a hearing on May 10th.

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