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LOWELL, MA – The City of Lowell’s voting rights expert, Dr. Nathaniel Persily, has announced that no changes will be made to the proposed election district map based on input received during a two month public comment period that followed the initial release of the map in November. Final changes to the map will be made after the release of 2020 Census data for Massachusetts, which is expected this spring. The map can be viewed online at yourlowellyourvote.org.
The current proposal, which divides the City into eight election districts, represents a draft of the map that will eventually be adopted in advance of the implementation of the City’s district and at-large “hybrid” election system, set to take effect for all municipal elections beginning this year. Under the system, each of the City’s eight newly-defined districts will elect one member to the City Council, and three Councilors will be elected at-large.
The newly released map is drawn according to the conditions of the consent decree which resolved a lawsuit challenging the City’s existing election system under the Voting Rights Act. The consent decree requires that the eight districts contain approximately the same number of registered voters, and that two of the districts must be majority minority, where Asian-American residents and Hispanic/Latino residents together comprise a majority of the citizen voting age population. In developing the districts Dr. Persily considered a host of factors including existing census data, voter registration data, and the boundaries of historically recognized Lowell neighborhoods.
Following the initial release of the proposed map, Lowell residents were encouraged to submit feedback on the districts online. The City hosted a series of three public meetings in English, Spanish and Khmer to inform the public of the proposed map and the process by which it was developed, and to seek additional input.
“After conducting three public meetings and reading all submitted comments, I am convinced that the proposed district map should only be changed once the new census data are released,” said Dr. Nataniel Persily. “Changes to the proposed map will be made at that time to equalize population between the districts and to avoid precinct splits, while, of course, remaining in compliance with applicable federal law and the court settlement that gave rise to this districting map. I expect the applicable census data for Massachusetts (the P.L. 94-171 datafile) to be released by the end of May if not much sooner. I will endeavor to make changes within two weeks of receiving the data so as to release a final map at that time.”