Democrats didn't present their own local voter redistricting plan to the full Representative Town Meeting because it would have been a violation of the Town Charter, according to minority leader Hal Schwartz, D-7.

The RTM adopted the eight-district proposal brought to the floor May 20 by Republican members of the redistricting subcommittee. It was not voted on by the group -- evenly divided between three Republican and three Democratic members -- which could not agree on a reapportionment plan to reflect new census data.

Town attorney Stanton Lesser had advised the RTM that it should vote only on redistricting proposals that were endorsed by the subcommittee because of language in the charter. The charter requires a redistricting plan be established "by an ordinance proposed" by the committee, a proviso that was added to the charter in 2006.

But Moderator Jeffrey Steele had a different interpretation of the charter language, and the word "proposed" in particular, and decided to allow a vote on the GOP plan at last week's RTM session.

The vote split 27-20 along party lines in favor of adopting the GOP plan, which reduces the number of voting districts from 10 to eight and cuts the membership from 50 to 40.

"To ignore the town attorney's opinion sets a dangerous precedent," Schwartz said. He said the Democrats believed if they put forth a plan that was not endorsed by the subcommittee, they would violate the charter, against the advice the of the town attorney. "It was, and continues to be my belief that, as elected officials, the RTM should abide by the opinion of the expert appointed to render legal advice to our town," Schwartz said. "That, too, is in our charter."

He said if, "after due process" the May 20 vote is found to be legal, he will abide by that decision and recommend his fellow Democrats do the same.

A court appeal can be filed to attempt to overturn the RTM vote.

As of Thursday, however, no court challenge had been filed with the town clerk's office.

"Until and unless that happens, I and my fellow Democrats on the RTM stand firmly behind our decision to adhere to what we believe was and is our town's law," Schwartz said.

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