The Milton Board of Civil Authority (BCA) says a draft map from the state’s Legislative Apportionment Board (LAB), redistricting the town’s two legislative districts, would be too confusing to voters and lessen representation for the town.
At an Oct. 27 meeting, the BCA, made up of the town’s selectboard, nine Justices of the Peace and Town Clerk, unanimously decided to tell the LAB it does not want a change in the town’s current districts.
Milton is currently divided into two legislative districts with two representatives each. The new map would split Milton up into four districts with one representative each and include some slices of other towns in three of the four blocks.
The new map comes from the LAB who sent it to all BCAs in the state for feedback. The state proposal consists of 150 single-member House districts with an ideal population of 4,287 people in each.
Every ten years, the state goes through a legislative redistricting process with new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Its goal is to make districts that ensure every voter has fair representation.
Milton is currently represented in the House by Rep. Christopher Mattos and Rep. John Palasik in the Chittenden-10 district, and Rep. Michael Morgan and Rep. Leland Morgan in the Grand Isle-Chittenden District. All four are Milton residents.
Current districting splits Milton in two. In the west, the Grand Isle-Chittenden district comprises half of Milton and the entirety of Grand Isle county. In the east, the Chittenden-10 district comprises exclusively Milton households.
The new map splits Milton into four, each with one representative.
One district would be made up of the western half of Milton as well as a chunk of Grand Isle County. Another geographically smaller district in the northern center of Milton would include 360 voters from Georgia.
553 Milton voters in the town’s northwest corner would be absorbed into a geographically larger district including all of Westford and some Essex households. The fourth would be a geographically smaller district composed of only Milton residents.
This means that if a person from Milton wanted to run for office and lived in the northwest corner of Milton, near North Road for example, that person would have to campaign and win all of Westford and some of Essex, said Milton town clerk Kristen Beers in a Nov. 12 interview.
In this scenario, both Leland and Michael Morgan would be unable to hold office. Because they live in the same district, they would either have to run against each other or one of them would have to give up the seat.
In late October, the Milton BCA unanimously voted in favor of not changing the Milton districts, Beers said.
She also said the way the town is currently split up with its two districts is within a 10% deviation of the ideal population size, with both members in the Grand Isle-Chittenden district representing 4,141.5 voters each and both members in the Chittenden-10 district representing 4,519.5 voters each.
At the meeting, Town Manager Don Turner emphasized that the districts do need to change, but in a different way than the state proposes. From his experience in the legislature, he said, he knows population counts are shifting, as proven by data from the U.S. Census.
Turner said retaining the districts as they currently are is very likely not to happen and said sending back a counter proposal is crucial.
For now, the BCA has only told the LAB that because the representation per representative is within the allowed deviation, no change is necessary.
When the legislative session opens up in December, the legislature will take all the feedback from BCAs around the state and try to agree upon a new map.