New Town Voting Districts Adopted; Population Spike Forced Major Changes

BERLIN — New voting districts were adopted by the Berlin Mayor and Council this week that reflect the growth that the town has experienced over several years.

While the council was satisfied with how the lines have been re-drawn for the most part, there are still some headaches over how long-standing districts have been shifted.

From 2000 to 2010, Berlin saw a total population increase of nearly 25-percent, jumping from 3,491 to 4,496. The town’s previous voter districts were based on revisions made in 2004. All of those numbers have been updated by district. As stated, the total adjusted population of Berlin is 4,496 while the total adjusted voting population is 3,341.

All four districts have been tweaked to bring them as close as possible to the average ideal population of 1,124. District 1 now sits at 1,128, District 2 at 1,120, District 3 at 1,082, and District 4 at 1,166. All districts had to be within 5-percent of the ideal.

“These are all within acceptable variables of each other,” said Mary Bohlen, deputy town administrator.

During prior work sessions, members of the council were unhappy with how the map would have changed. At one point, there was discussion on flipping Districts 3 and 4, essentially leaving those councilmembers with entirely new constituents. The final plan adopted this week avoids that extreme but still changes district lines extensively.

“Bay Street actually ends up in three different districts at various points. Unfortunately, it is the nature of districting that you have to draw those lines somewhere,” said Bohlen.

Councilman Elroy Brittingham acknowledged that this plan is better than the earlier rough drafts, but is still disappointed that some people living close to him will be in other voting districts.

“The only part that I don’t like about it, people living in your neighborhood that you see every day walking across the street from you, they can’t vote for you,” he said.

Still, it was an improvement, noted Councilwoman Paula Lynch, who called the final map “remarkable” compared to where the town began during the re-districting process.

Now that districts are set, the town will be launching a small campaign to spread awareness to residents who will be voting in a different district than they are used to.

“We’ll be putting out the information and we’ll be sending out press releases and public service announcement type things letting people know that they can come look at the map here in town hall,” said Bohlen. “We’ll also try to have them posted in various places, churches, grocery store, post office.”

The council voted to adopt the new map unanimously.