Metro

R.I. General Assembly redraws voting lines

By
City & State Editor
Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Rhode Island General Assembly approved a bill last night that would redraw the boundaries of the voting districts for elections to Congress and the General Assembly following an estimated 4,000-person population increase in the state over the past decade. Redistricting happens every ten years to account for demographic changes recorded in the census.

The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Deputy Majority Leader Stephen Ucci, D-Cranston and Johnston. Prior to the vote, he said the redistricting committee met 21 times in various parts of Rhode Island before proposing the legislation.

Ucci said 80 percent of people would not be moved from their original districts, and 69 districts would see a population change of up to 25 percent. Only five districts would be altered by 30 to 37 percent. Opponents of the bill have said the shifts would move more Republican voters into the district of Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., while supporters have said the new boundaries will give minority communities more political clout.

Several House leaders proposed amendments. House Minority Leader Brian Newberry, R-North Smithfield and Burrillville, urged the chamber to keep villages in districts 47 and 48 intact. None of the proposed amendments passed.

Newberry said there would be legal repercussions to the passage of the legislation without his amendment.

Other representatives complained the process behind the legislation was opaque. “This whole process has been very closed,” said state Rep. Karen Macbeth, D-Cumberland, displaying a sign that formerly hung on the door of the Reapportionment Office, which was tasked with overseeing the redistricting process. The sign read, “Knock first.”

After an hour and a half of debate, the House voted overwhelmingly in support of the legislation. The Senate voted 34-2 in favor of the companion bill. The legislation will next go to Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14, who has not taken a public stance on the proposed plans.