What is Reprecincting?

Reprecincting is the drawing of new local district lines. Wards and precincts in the cities and towns within which they are comprised form the building blocks for the larger legislative districts. Districts must be drawn so as to contain roughly equal numbers of residents. This is different from the number of registered voters. The population is determined by the most recent federal census. 

When is reprecincting done?

Every ten years, after each federal census.  

Why is reprecincting done?

State law requires each city and town to create new precinct boundaries that take into consideration population, communities of interest, and state and federal constitutional requirements, among other considerations. The law requires that legislative districts be redrawn on a periodic basis so that shifts in population will neither unfairly increase nor diminish a particular voter’s voice in government. The new precinct lines form the building blocks of other districts, including congressional districts, state senator and state representative districts. • In Massachusetts, the Legislature is charged with creating new legislative districts.  

 When determining legislative 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. Municipalities themselves have the initial responsibility of establishing ward and precinct boundaries, which become the building blocks in determining legislative and local government districts. A precinct is the smallest geographically bounded unit used for state election purposes. A ward is a geographically bounded unit for election purposes, which consists of one or more precincts.  

 Each city and town is required to establish ward and precinct lines every ten years, following the federal census if:  

  1. A town contains more than 6,200 residents; or  
  2. A precinct contains more than 4,000 residents; or  
  3. The wards of a city do not contain approximately equal numbers of residents so that each ward’s population is within 5 percent of the average; or  
  4. A ward not divided into precincts contains more than 4,000 residents. 

 Minority Vote Dilution: Redrawn precinct and ward boundaries must not result in the dilution of minority group members’ votes. The Voting Rights Act prohibits any voting practice which “results in a denial or abridgement of the right... to vote on account of race or color” or membership in a language minority group. Two examples of possible violations are known as “packing” and “fragmentation”:  

 “Packing” means concentrating a high proportion of minority group members in one or a few districts so that their votes cannot elect as many minority group representatives as another plan may potentially allow.  

 “Fragmentation” refers to spreading minority group members among many districts or submerging them in a district dominated by another group also resulting in the election of a smaller number of minority group representatives. 

 Other Considerations: 

  • Existing polling places 
  • Potential new polling places 
  • Communities of interest 

 Please provide feedback on this process by emailing Reprecincting Email

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