New Bedford Voters Find Redistricting Means Confusing, Less Convenient Polling Locations
Over 17,000 New Bedford residents may be in for confusing changes next election because of gerrymandering, when a political group tries to change a voting district to create a result that helps them or hurts the group who is against them.
Massachusetts lawmakers ignored Secretary of State William Galvin's warning about the confusion and chaos that may result, and moved to finalize the new congressional district map, which happens every 10 years following the collection of Census data.
Will this have adverse effects on the little people?
A listener who resides at the Taber Mill Apartments called in, sounding distressed, saying that she "and all of the little people living here" will no longer be registered to vote in the building's community center. It's been a convenient and safe way for residents to vote for the past 10 years.
Starting with the September primary, all Taber Mill residents will have to vote at their new sub-precinct, Holy Name of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish at 121 Mt. Pleasant Street, and this isn't sitting well with the group.
Manny DeBrito, New Bedford Election Registrar, was asked to comment on-air about the potential chaos that could result.
"We're not trying to make voting more difficult here, because I want people to vote," he said.
According to DeBrito, New Bedford has ended up with five new sub-precincts. By law, precincts are supposed to contain no more than 4,000 people and be equal in size, within plus or minus five percent.
"When the lawmakers created the new boundaries, they didn't have the voters in mind, just the population size," he said.
DeBrito said that because of COVID-19 delaying the Census' release of new data, some impatient lawmakers said they had no other choice but to redraw legislative districts before cities and towns could revisit local precinct boundaries.
"The lawmakers reversed the order and changed things around. Normally they do re-precincting first and then redistricting, but some communities did not wait this time, and as a result, it's led to the creation of confusing sub-precincts," DeBrito said.
If you recall, this was happening at a time when officials were commenting about whether Fall River and New Bedford should be in the same district.
If the objective here was to create districts that people vote in with a ballot that makes sense, the lawmakers failed. However, if the objective was going to be creating confusion and adversity for the 'little people," then mission accomplished.
There will be more updates and coverage of how this issue is affecting local voters as we approach the 2022 election season.