Reprecincting

What is Reprecincting?

Every ten years after the Federal Census is complete, new ward and precinct boundary lines are drawn to reflect changes in the City’s population and to anticipate the needs of the City’s election system for the next decade.

Voting precincts established by a city or town must meet the following requirements:

  • Each new precinct must be “composed of compact and contiguous territory” without protruding fingers or long tails to the extent possible.
  • Precincts must be 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 may contain more than 4,000 residents.
  • Every precinct’s population must be within five percent (5%) of the average precinct population for that ward or town.
  • Ward populations must be within five percent (5%) of the average ward population for the city.
  • Redrawn ward and precinct boundaries must not result in the dilution of minority group members' votes

Redistricting

In previous years, reprecincting was completed by cities and towns by June in the year following the Federal Census. The state legislature created new legislative districts after the reprecincting process was complete, using precincts as building blocks for new State Representative, State Senator, Governor’s Council, and Congressional districts.

Due to the pandemic, 2020 census data was not released until August 2021, which meant that cities and towns were redrawing precinct lines at the same time the legislature was working on new districts. The Cambridge Election Commission learned late in the process that the legislature was unwilling to accommodate new precinct lines in their redistricting process.

The new legislative districts split Cambridge into:

Each of these districts, when combined, divide Cambridge into 13 separate sections that will each have different versions of the ballot in state elections. Most of these sections have populations that can not be evenly divided into precincts. Whenever a precinct contains more than one district, the city is required to create a sub-precinct. Voters who live in the sub-precinct will be listed on a separate voting list and provided with a different ballot than other voters in the precinct. The approved legislative boundaries make it impossible to avoid sub-precincts. 

Cambridge Reprecincting Plan - Updated December 10, 2021

The population of Cambridge increased from 105,162 in 2010 to 118,403 in the 2020 Census, however the changes were not evenly distributed throughout the city. Some precincts increased dramatically in population, while others stayed the same or decreased. With 33 precincts, each precinct must have a population within 5% of 3,588. Any change that is made in one precinct has a cascading effect on the entire map as other precincts will need to be adjusted to keep the population of every precinct within that range. 

The Board of Election Commissioners held multiple public meetings in September and October to finalize a reprecincting plan and to listen to public comment. On October 13, a proposed map was approved that incorporated all of the public comment and was able to meet the Election Commission’s goals of preventing voters from having to cross major thoroughfares in order to vote as much as possible, confirming that senior housing buildings were not moved to more distant polling locations, making sure that precinct lines did not split up housing communities, and minimizing the amount of change for voters to the extent possible with the large shifts in population.

However, before the new map could be submitted to the Local Election District Review Commission (LEDRC), the state agency responsible for approving reprecincting plans, the Election Commission learned that the legislative redistricting was going to require the entire map to be redrawn to minimize the number of sub-precincts. A new map was created that minimized the number of sub-precincts and still met as many of the above mentioned goals as possible. This map was posted online on November 24, 2021. 

After allowing two weeks for public comment, the Board of Election Commissioners voted to approve the proposed plan 4-0, on December 8, 2021: 

Ward and Precinct Map approved December 8, 2021

Ward and Precinct Map with sub-precincts marked

Memo to the LEDRC

The LEDRC approved the re-precincting plan on December 10, 2021. 

Reprecincting changes will not take effect until the 2022 State Primary. Some of the polling locations may be changed in 2022 in order to better accommodate voters under the new map. Please submit any comments or questions to the Election Commission at elections@cambridgema.gov

Additional maps:

 

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