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Hamilton and Wenham Stay Together, Join Topsfield and Rowley in Proposed New House District

Proposed new districts for House of Representatives seats were released on Tuesday and Hamilton and Wenham would stay together with Ipswich in the 4th Essex district under the proposal.

Hamilton and Wenham would stick together in a proposed new House of Representative district released on Tuesday.

The district also keeps the two towns together with Ipswich, where sitting state Rep. Brad Hill resides.

“There was never any talk of splitting them up,” Hill said.

But it pulls Rowley and Topsfield in with Ipswich, Hamilton, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Wenham to be part of a newly constructed 4th Essex District.

“My district changed quite a bit,” said Hill, a Republican that came up with the proposal.

It takes two Boxford precincts and a Middleton precinct out of the 4th Essex district. The proposed new district consists of the entirety of six towns.

“What is offered today is not etched in stone,” Hill said on Tuesday evening.

Hill said members of the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting are encouraging residents to contact the committee with feedback or suggested changes, something he said hasn’t happened in the past with redistricting.

“Historically they have out the map out and then had a vote on it,” he said.

The maps need to be finalized by the end of October, he said, to allow current legislators to establish residency in their district, if necessary, for a year before next’s fall election.

The state's 160 house districts each need to represent roughly equal number of citizens -42,000 - and state population results from the 2010 census required the maps to be redrawn.

Massachusetts will be losing a Congressional seat and the maps paring down from 10 districts to nine districts have not be released yet.

When the redistricting work was beginning earlier this year, Hill said he voted for a proposal to create an independent redistricting commission to avoid a conflict of interest, but the proposal was voted down.

In the end, Hill was named to the committee and in March said that he hoped "we can right some of the past wrongs.”

On Tuesday, he said he felt strongly that had happened.

“It was a very open process,” Hill said, noting that 13 public hearing were held and that it was a “huge improvement” over 10 years ago when then-House Speaker Tom Finneran was accused of political gerrymandering, Finneran plead guilty to one count of obstruction of justice in connection to testimony where he said he was not involved in creating districts that a federal judge said favored white incumbents over possible minority challengers.

This time around, for example, a district where the majority of the residents are racial minorities was created in Lawrence, Hill said.

“By doing that there was a domino effect all the way down to Peabody,” he said.

It is decisions such as that that make Hill feel confident that the proposed districts can withstand any legal challenges. The committee, he said, did its best to make sure it did not create any districts that would possibly instigate litigation.

Hill said he expected much of the feedback about the propose districts to come from just to the west of the two towns in the Masconomet School District, which is divided up into several seats.

Hill said priority is given to keeping towns together that share a school district – just what happened in Hamilton and Wenham.

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