Coalition Seeking Haverhill Ward and District Representation Plans Online Session Tuesday

A social media post advertising the forum.

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A coalition that is threatening legal action over Haverhill’s lack of elected district representation on the City Council and School Committee is having an informational meeting online tomorrow night.

The presentation, “Haverhill Electoral System Informational Session,” promises to help residents “learn more about advocacy efforts underway and steps being undertaken to make Haverhill’s electoral system more inclusive of its community.” It is organized by the Haverhill Latino Coalition, Lawyers for Civil Rights, and MassINC and takes place Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 5:30 p.m. There is a registration link here.

Back in July, Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights sent what it called a “demand” letter to the city. While it acknowledged the city had voluntarily taken steps to change city government before the pandemic struck, the group said, “now is the time for the City Council to take concrete steps to address this issue.” Lawyers wrote, Haverhill’s current system “dilutes” the votes of communities of color.

Councilors told WHAV the body believed the groups sought the delay last year because it would be difficult to have a ballot campaign during the pandemic. It has since become clear, those seeking ward and district representation prefer to skip balloting and have the City Council directly petition the legislature.

Councilors acknowledged the two possible paths in August when it approved two nonbinding questions on the final Nov. 2 ballot.

One asks whether Haverhill should elect one city councilor from each of the city’s seven wards and four at large and the second asks voters whether they agree with electing a nine-member School Committee with five members elected from districts to be defined by the City Council and mayor and three more from across the city. If approved, the legislature would be asked to accept the city’s home rule petition to make the changes.

Councilors changed the referendum, however, from binding to non-binding so as to reflect the possibility voters will have no say in the matter.

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