Redistricting scrambles city's election plans

Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA) - Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Author: ARDNER
GARDNER - Redistricting required by the state is throwing a knuckleball at plans for the biennial city election, and getting a handle on it may take an act of the Legislature. 

The state has sent the city a suggestion on how it could draw its new ward and precinct lines based on population shifts. The change will be significant in some wards and leave no ward untouched except for Ward 5 in the south side of the city. The problem is that people running for ward councilor positions in the city's November election could be significantly affected by the changes. 

City Solicitor John Flick told the council last night someone living in one ward could run for ward councilor in that ward, only to be moved into another ward by redistricting. The council needs to approve redistricting by June 15, and the changes would go into effect after Dec. 31. 

"We have nothing in our charter to address this," he said. 

The city has five ward councilors and six at-large councilors. The at-large councilors run city-wide, and those positions would not be affected by redistricting. Mr. Flick said if a person is elected in November, but after December is redistricted out of the ward, he or she could not be sworn in. 

Already one candidate, Marc Morgan, would be affected. He lives in Ward 1 and is seeking to run for councilor in that ward, but would be moved into Ward 2 under the proposed plan. 

Mr. Flick said the only way the city could affect this is through special legislation. He suggested the legislation would allow a person elected to represent a ward but, if redistricted out of the ward, to still represent the old ward until the conclusion of a two-year term. 

City Councilor Scott Graves said he was concerned that the special legislation would be contrary to the intent of having ward councilors. He said it could result in people representing wards they do not live in. 

He suggested the legislation require people who know they are going to be in a different ward in January to run for their new ward. 

He was told that was contrary to the city charter, which requires that at the time candidates submit nomination papers, they are residents of the ward they are running for. Mr. Graves said the other problem is candidates being redistricted would be at a disadvantage when running against someone who is not being redistricted. 

The council is expected to vote on the changes at its next meeting.



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