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Lines at polls

Boston should redraw precincts

October 18, 2011

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BOSTON HAS been exempt since the 1920s from a state law requiring cities and towns in Massachusetts to redraw ward and precinct lines every 10 years to ensure political boundaries of roughly equal size. Even Secretary of State William Galvin, the state’s highest election officer, isn’t certain about why the exemption exists. But he agrees that it is archaic.

The rationale behind “reprecincting’’ is to ensure that some voters aren’t forced to stand in long lines while others show up at polling places with the drawing power of a frozen lake in Antarctica. The equitable distribution of electoral resources requires sensible precinct boundaries.

Last month, City Councilor Michael Ross led a successful effort in the council to bring the city’s 254 precincts into compliance. But the home rule petition still requires approval from the state Legislature. The precinct may be the smallest geographic unit used for election purposes, but it is the cornerstone of fair elections. The Legislature must take steps to make sure that every neighborhood has an equal chance to get its voters to the polls.