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The original item was published from 9/1/2021 9:38:00 AM to 9/20/2021 12:53:06 PM.

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Posted on: September 1, 2021

[ARCHIVED] AMHERST’S DISTRICTING ADVISORY BOARD REVIEWING 2020 CENSUS DATA FOR UPDATING PRECINCTS & DISTRICTS

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Amherst recently convened a District Advisory Board (DAB) to review the 2020 US Census data for Amherst and population changes since 2010, and will recommend the redrawing of voting precinct and district boundary lines to reflect the 2020 data. The DAB will submit a report and proposed precinct and district map to the Amherst Town Council in October for approval. The public is invited to submit any questions or concerns to the Amherst Town Clerk and board liaison, Susan Audette townclerk@amherstma.gov (with a subject line DAB) or during the Public Comment Period during the DAB’s weekly meetings; the Zoom link for the meetings can be found on the Town's meeting calendar. Any submitted comments will be forwarded to the DAB members.

The DAB is composed of nine voting Town resident members and three non-voting members (the Town Clerk, a member of the Board of Registrars, and a member of the Town IT staff). At least one (1) of the voting members must come from each of the existing 5 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. The DAB members are appointed for one year. However, 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: https://www.amherstma.gov/82/Boards-Committees

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 law. A copy of the DAB’s charge is here: https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/56908

Not just a local issue, municipal precincts, and districts are the building blocks of congressional and state legislative voting districts. State law requires that every ten years each city and town create new voting precinct boundaries 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 any new 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 US 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: https://www.amherstma.gov/3624/Districting-Advisory-Board

For more information, please visit this website or contact the DAB at the email address: townclerk@amherstma.gov (subject line: DAB)

Contact Information: Susan Audette, Town Clerk townclerk@amherstma.gov and Irene Dujovne, Committee Chair | Town Clerk Phone: 413-259-3035

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