State Senate Advances Haverhill Ward-Based Elections Bill to Third Reading

Oren Sellstrom, litigation director for Lawyers for Civil Rights. (WHAV News photograph.)

The state Senate Thursday ordered Haverhill’s home rule petition for ward-based City Council and School Committee elections to move to its third reading—or just a couple of steps away from becoming law.

Sen. Diana DiZoglio sponsored the petition in the Senate. Less than a month ago, the House, accepted the bill on its required third reading and passed it to the Senate. The home rule petition was presented by Rep. Andy X. Vargas in that branch of the legislature.

If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, as is likely, the bill amends the city charter providing for the election of city councilors and School Committee members primarily by wards rather than the current system where all are elected on an at-large basis.

Legislation calls for the City Council to expand to 11 members with seven city councilors elected by ward with four others elected at-large. The school Committee will have seven ward members, three citywide representatives and the mayor as tiebreaker.

It also reduces School Committee terms from four to two years. Those elected to four-year terms last November, however, are permitted to complete their terms of office.

Haverhill residents voted by a 2-1 margin in favor of ward representation in a non-binding referendum on last November’s ballot.

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