At an 8 a.m. meeting today the Select Board approved a new voting map for Tewksbury that breaks the town into eight precincts, following the 2010 state congressional lines.
Select Board vice chair Jayne Wellman led the meeting, attended by clerk James F. Mackey and member Todd Johnson. Chair Jay Kelly and member Anne Marie Stronach were absent. Also on the virtual meeting were town clerk Denise Graffeo and town manager Richard Montuori.
Graffeo formally asked the board to adopt or accept the proposed map and precinct boundaries as well as the legal description.
Where previously the town used a “1 and 1A, 2 and 2A” construction, Tewksbury’s districts will now be numbered one through eight, with only one split district; the northern portion of Precinct 5 will be represented by Tram Nguyen.
Current senator Barry Finegold retains the entire town of Tewksbury. On the House side, Tewksbury will have three representatives: David Robertson for precincts 2, 4, 6, 8 and the larger portion of 5. Nguyen for the northern end of precinct 5 plus 3 and 7. Vanna Howard will represent Precinct 1.
The three represent, respectively, the 19th Middlesex, 18th Essex and 17th Middlesex districts.
Tewksbury’s 2020 population is 31,342 residents, which represents an 8.2% increase of 2,381 new residents compared with the 2010 census. Once census data is released, each city and town is required by law to establish new precinct lines. There are some restrictions: No precinct may contain more than 4,000 residents, and every precinct’s population must be within 5% of the average. The plan accomplishes those objectives.
The 2020 census data release was delayed for a number of reasons, making this year’s process difficult for both the legislature and cities and towns. The U.S. Census Bureau released data from the 2020 census in a usable format to state redistricting authorities and the public on Sept. 16.
Under the Mass. constitution, elected officials must live in their districts for one year before being sworn in. Since representatives come up for reelection every two years, with reps Howard, Nguyen and Robertson on the ballot in Nov. 2022, state and local officials were under intense pressure.
Graffeo said approximately 500 residents will see their districts change.
“I know that the town clerk put a lot of time and effort into this,” said Johnson. “This is the best effort we can make considering all of the factors and variables, and when you brought up the the legend it’s pretty clear that each of the precincts that you’ve established is very, very close in terms of total voting population, so I appreciate the effort on that.”
Once the state approves the map, the clerk’s office will notify by mail each household that has a voter as to what their precinct is and where they’ll go to vote.
Johnson and Wellman reiterated their concerns around having three state representatives and the impact of that on Tewksbury, but lengthy discussions with the delegation didn’t reveal any remedies.
“We did present testimony for the hearing of the special joint committee on redistricting,” said Graffeo. “And we communicated with our delegates early along in the process.”
The town as well as individual Select Board members sought adjustments, but the committee was not accepting change requests from any community.
“The ship had sailed,” said Graffeo. There is an opportunity to seek limited relief until Dec. 15, which Graffeo said the town will take advantage of if possible.
Wellman pointed out that Chelmsford has four representatives and also appealed to the legislature.
“They didn’t get any relief either, which is atrocious,” she said.
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