“Beware, beware Rhode Island’s coming gerrymander”

John Marion of Common Cause Rhode Island wrote a blog post about Rhode Island redistricting history, warning of the consequences of gerrymandering.

by Leah Sakala, July 12, 2011

John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island, wrote a great blog post today about redistricting and reapportionment in Rhode Island.

He explains that prior to the Reapportionment Revolution of the 1960s:

Rhode Island was at the head of the class when it came to malapportionment […]. As Scott McKay wrote in a retrospective piece about Rhode Island political history, a century ago, “The foundation of Republican control in the state rested on perhaps the most malapportioned General Assembly in America: Providence, with 30,000 voters, had one senator, as did Little Compton, which once elected a state senator with 78 votes.”

The result was that 7.5% of Rhode Island’s population once controlled the legislature. That would be like having just the senators from Cranston controlling an entire legislative chamber.

Rhode Island has made significant progress towards fair redistricting since then, but there is one reapportionment controversy left:

[P]risoners – yes, prisoners. A movement is afoot to count prisoners at their last known address rather than where they are incarcerated. In fact, according the Prison Policy Initiative, Rhode Island has the most malapportioned state legislative districts in the nation because its ACI is located on one campus.

Will Rhode Island use prison populations to pad the legislative districts that contains prisons to the detriment of every other district in the state? That will be decided this summer, and John Marion argues that unless the voters demand a change very soon, the legislature will proceed with business as usual.

For more on the movement to end prison-based gerrymandering in Rhode Island, see our campaign page.

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