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Tuesday, March 20 News

RTM's new redistricting panel avoiding boundary battles -- so far

The four members of the Representative Town Meeting Redistricting Committee -- two Democrats, two Republicans -- huddled Monday over a large map, with new voting district boundaries marked out.

They started going through a list of town streets, starting with Abbey Road. Using smart phones and tablets to find exactly where each street was, they kept a list of where each street would be included in the new districts.

It was a picture of cooperation often missing from the previous incarnation of the Redistricting Committee. That committee, with three members from each political party, deadlocked after more than 20 meetings over the course of more than a year. It ended in July 2013 with a court injunction blocking the redistricting plan proposed by the three GOP members of the committee -- a plan that was not endorsed by all six members. The town charter requires that the redistricting plan be forwarded by the committee to the full RTM before it can vote on the proposal.

The blocked GOP plan would have reduced the number of voting districts from 10 to 8, and the number of RTM members from 50 to 40.

This time, the new Redistricting Committee is taking a different tack, and so far, is working with a plan that would keep the number of districts to 10.

Committee Chairwoman Pam Iacono said they have assigned a letter to each district and tweaked the boundaries in an effort to reduce the number of local voting districts that are split between more than one state General Assembly district. "We're just dealing with the basics right now," she said, and the way the map is currently proposed, only one district is split.

After committee members have assigned all of the streets to a voting district, she said, they will calculate the demographics of each district to see if they meet requirements, such as no more than a 10 percent deviation in population among them.

It was, the RTM members admitted, a rather daunting task, but one that current technology will help.

"I remember back in the day when my father did this," Chris Tymniak said, when there weren't computer programs, or Google maps to aid in the process.