Analysis: Haverhill Voters Should Consider Long-Term Changes to Voting Process

(See related story.)

Voters in Haverhill have the opportunity to express their views on the choice of city council by ward or school committee by district.

Whatever the choice of the majority on Tuesday, it is only an opinion since the result is not binding. A question asks if Haverhill should elect a city councilor from each of the city’s seven wards and four in general. The second asks voters if they agree with electing a nine-member school committee with five members elected from districts to be defined by city council and the mayor and three others from across the city. Earlier this year, under threat of legal action to create potentially minority majority regions, councilors put the questions on the ballot. However, members made the questions non-binding to reflect the possibility that voters have no say in the matter.

With at least three newcomers joining city council, there is no certainty that the newly reconstituted body in January will forward a petition on autonomy to the legislature if that is the wish of voters. Such a move would likely result in a confrontation as the Haverhill Latino Coalition and Lawyers for Civil Rights demand a change, claiming that Haverhill’s current system “dilutes” the votes of communities of color.

In July, Haverhill Latino Coalition’s “Manny” Matias handbook told WHAV that the question should not be asked of voters.

“We would like the autonomy petition. It’s an option, so we would be happy to have it, but we don’t want it to be put on the ballot. We see what the numbers say (of the minority population) and they see what the numbers say. It is up to them (the city council) to make this decision, ”he explained.

It is not known what happened behind the scenes to draft the school committee issue so that its members are elected in five arbitrary districts rather than in wards that will be the base of city council divisions.

Additionally, the layout of Haverhill’s neighborhoods and constituencies is also facing changes following last year’s U.S. Census which saw the city grow. See a sample of the polling questions here.

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