Section 6. In the year 2001 and every tenth year thereafter, no later than June fifteenth, the board of selectmen of every town of less than six thousand, two hundred inhabitants may, on their own motion, or shall, when so directed by the town meeting, and the board of selectmen of every town having precincts or six thousand, two hundred or more inhabitants shall, divide the town in the manner hereinafter provided into convenient voting precincts. Any voting precincts so established hereunder shall be composed of compact and contiguous territory. The selectmen shall, so far as possible, make the center line of streets or ways, or other well defined limits that constitute block boundaries recognized by the United States bureau of the census, the boundaries of such precincts, and shall designate them by numbers or letters.
In any town, each precinct established hereunder shall contain, as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants, but not more than four thousand inhabitants. The times and procedures required by this section for precincts shall also apply to any district for electing town councillors, school committee members, representative town meeting members, or other town officers, notwithstanding any general or special law or charter to the contrary.
Such division of a town into precincts shall be made by the board of selectmen setting forth an official description of the precincts so established, together with a statement of the number of inhabitants residing in each precinct as nearly as such number may be determined. The board of selectmen shall also cause an official map of the precincts established by them hereunder to be prepared. Upon the adoption by the board of selectmen of a town of such a division, the town clerk shall transmit forthwith to the state secretary, not later than 7 days after the date on which the board of selectmen is authorized or required to divide the town into precincts under this section, a copy of said division, together with an official map of said precincts and a statement by the board of selectmen of the number of inhabitants in each such precinct, as nearly as such number may be determined. The state secretary shall make the same available to the local election districts review commission for its scrutiny. If said commission shall find that any plan of town precincts established under this section conflicts with the applicable provisions of this chapter, or is of questionable constitutionality, it shall transmit a written notice of such findings, with a clear indication of the deficiencies of such plan, to the board of selectmen of the town not later than 35 days following the date the town clerk must transmit to the state secretary a copy of the division. The board of selectmen of such town shall make a new or revised division of the town into precincts in the manner and within the time prescribed by said commission, but not later than the forty-ninth day following the date the town clerk must transmit to the state secretary a copy of such division.
If any town consisting of one precinct and having six thousand, two hundred or more inhabitants, which is required to be divided into precincts under this section shall not be so divided within the time specified above, the local election districts review commission shall, no later than 64 days following the date the town clerk must transmit to the state secretary a copy of such division make such division of the town into precincts conforming with the standards set forth in this section. The commission may appoint a master who shall, within fifteen days, make such division of the town into precincts, said division to be subject to approval by the commission and to amendment by it.
For any town that fails to act by the forty-ninth day following the date the town clerk must transmit to the state secretary a copy of such division, the local election districts review commission shall, within 15 days, make such division of the town into precincts or appoint a master who shall make such division which shall be subject to approval and amendment by the commission. The cost of redistricting by a master shall be paid by the town.
Should the state secretary determine that decennial federal census figures are available at such time as to allow this process to begin earlier, the state secretary shall designate the date on which such process shall begin.