Why Voting Precincts Changed in the City of Boston
Ahead of the November State Election, we wanted to explain why voting precincts changed in the City, and what that means for voters.
The Board of Election Commissioners is authorized to redraw precinct lines within wards, whenever such division is necessary for the proper conduct of all federal, state, and municipal elections. These efforts are led by the Board Chair, who also serves as the Commissioner of the Boston Elections Department.
Before the process completed in October 2021, Boston last redrew its precincts in 1924, when a commission appointed by the state legislature created the wards and precincts structure. Because of the City's growth, some of the City’s precincts had disproportionately higher numbers of voters, which posed challenges for administering elections, such as long wait times at polling locations.
The Election Department worked with the City Council for more than two years to identify precinct changes that were needed, in preparation for the 2020 U.S. Census which is conducted once each decade.
After completing a thorough review of the City’s voting precincts, the Election Department identified several wards where precincts needed to be redrawn due to voter registration data and expected population growth. Following the Census, the Election Department worked with community groups, City officials, and the state legislature on the adopted precinct changes. These changes focus on equity in the voting population of each precinct to reduce wait times and increase voter access. As a result, some Boston voters were assigned to new or different voting precincts, and some of those voters may also have been assigned to a new polling location.
For example, Ward 3 Precinct 7 previously housed 4,151 registered voters. Now, Precinct 7 is divided into 2 precincts, creating Ward 3 Precinct 7 and Precinct 16. The new plan keeps both precincts voting at the Cathedral High School and will now allow the Elections department to have a separate set of voting machines, voter lists, and poll workers to help with faster processing.
In South Boston, Ward 6 Precinct 1 was also the main voting precinct for the newly developed Seaport neighborhood. This precinct housed over 7,000 registered voters and spanned almost the entire neighborhood, requiring some voters to travel over one mile to cast a ballot. The precinct plan allowed us to divide Ward 6 Precinct 1 into 3 precincts. Voters in the Seaport neighborhood will now have their own voting precinct and polling location at District Hall, bringing voting closer to home.
In accordance with the 2019 Ordinance issued by the City Council, the Election Department is now committed to reviewing precincts every five years, and redrawing precincts, as appropriate, after each U.S. Census to prevent overpopulated precincts and ensure easy and equitable access to voting.
We encourage all Boston voters to check their voter registration status and confirm their polling location ahead of the November 8 State Election by visiting the Election Department website.
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