January 24, 2013

Augusta prepares to reapportion voting wards

Districts fall short of U.S. Census standards, says Development Director Matt Nazar

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- The boundary lines separating the city's voting wards need to be redrawn, which would result in some voters moving to a new ward, without actually moving anywhere.

Municipalities with voting wards are required to redistrict, after each U.S. Census, if ward populations vary by more than 10 percent from the smallest ward's population.

Based on the 2010 Census, the city's ward populations are not all within that 10 percent standard, so by state law, reapportionment is required, according to Development Director Matt Nazar.

As of the 2010 Census, the city's ward populations are: Ward 1, 4,283; Ward 2, 4,849; Ward 3, 5,118; and Ward 4, 4,885.

Nazar told city councilors Thursday the only way to reapportion population accurately is to move blocks of people from one ward to another.

While noting reapportioning ward boundaries is entirely within the authority of city councilors, Nazar said he was able, with relatively minor changes to the geographical boundaries, to bring the city's wards to within allowed standards, while also ensuring all existing ward councilors remain in the ward they were elected to represent. Nazar's proposed redistricting, which he said was done simply to make the numbers match, and not with any political motivations, would result in ward populations of: Ward 1, 4,769; Ward 2, 4,778; Ward 3, 4,794; and Ward 4, 4,794.

While noting reapportioning ward boundaries is entirely within the authority of city councilors, Nazar said he was able, with relatively minor changes to the geographical boundaries, to bring the city's wards to within allowed standards, while also ensuring all existing ward councilors remain in the ward they were elected to represent. Nazar's proposed redistricting, which he said was done simply to make the numbers match, and not with any political motivations, would result in ward populations of: Ward 1, 4,769; Ward 2, 4,778; Ward 3, 4,794; and Ward 4, 4,794.

It would do so by moving a series of boundary lines, with the following results:

* Putting a west side area that is now in Ward 2, surrounding the state Capitol complex, in Ward 1.

* Moving an area of Ward 3 in the North and Boothby street areas into Ward 1.

* On the east side, moving a boundary line between Ward 4 and Ward 2 to bring a small section of what is now Ward 4, near Pearl Street, into Ward 2.

"What I did, strictly as a numbers exercise, was take Census blocks and move them around between wards," Nazar said. "I was able to come extremely close, from a numbers perspective."

Ward 3 Councilor Patrick Paradis asked that if boundary lines are going to be redrawn, consideration be given to making parts of the same neighborhoods part of the same voting wards.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the city staff would work on details of the proposed reapportionment and report back to councilors.

In another ward voting issue, councilors also discussed designating Cony High School as the permanent Ward 4 polling place. The ward has been without a permanent polling place since St. Andrew Church closed. The church property is for sale.

The November elections were held in the music room at Cony.

City Clerk Barbara Wardwell said that election went fairly well at Cony, although some people were unsure where to go and where to park. She said more signs should solve those problems.

A police officer probably would be near the polls at the school, to prevent someone from coming into the voting area and gaining access to the rest of the school.

The proposal to designate Cony as the permanent Ward 4 polling place is likely to go to councilors for a vote Feb. 7.

 

Keith Edwards -- 621-5647

 

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