Doherty calls redistricting plan “blatant political opportunism”
UPDATE: Common Cause calls for halting the process
John Marion, executive director of Common Cause of Rhode Island, shares the following reaction to recent redistricting developments:
Common Cause Rhode Island expresses deep disappointment about the drawing of the proposed maps for Rhode Island’s congressional districts. The proposed maps, designated as “Plan E,” move over 100,000 people according to media reports, when the legal requirement to reapportion required a shift of approximately 7200 people. We believe the redistricting commission has not done due diligence in preparing these plans, using incomplete information to justify their decisions. Common Cause believes the commission should halt the process and wait until all of the necessary information is available before proceeding.
In 2010 Common Cause introduced legislation that would have prohibited the redistricting commission from considering the home address of incumbent politicians in the production of plans. In the first hearings of the commission in 2011 we asked that they not protect incumbents in this process. Both efforts were met with silence. We believe that no districts should be drawn to protect an incumbent politician, or advantage a particular candidate, whoever they may be.
While the commission’s consultant has publicly stated his intent to maximize minority representation with the current plans, including those for the General Assembly, we believe there is no way to assess that claim at this point. The redistricting commission has yet to receive any information about the turnout or voting behavior of the minority communities in Rhode Island, information that is necessary to determine whether districts viably meet the majority minority designation. According to a report by WPRI’s Ted Nesi, Congressman David Cicilline’s campaign had access to such information. The commission’s failure to receive this information is a result of Rhode Island being the only state in the nation to not fully participate in Phase II of the Census redistricting program.
Because of the lack of necessary information we believe this process should not move forward at this time.
The General Assembly has a very specific task – to provide for Congressional districts that are numerically equal, in this case by moving approximately seven thousand two hundred residents fromRhode Island’s second Congressional district to the first. Rather than proposing this change in a transparent and efficient manner, with as little disruption as possible to traditional boundaries and communities of interest, the most recent proposal would relocate more than one hundred and twenty five thousand Rhode Islanders between the districts. Such drastic displacement is neither necessary nor in the best interests of those Rhode Islanders. It’s the equivalent of flying from Boston to New York through San Francisco- it makes no sense.
So the question is this; why are we doing this in such a roundabout and inefficient way? The people ofRhode Islanddeserve to know and understand the reasons. Why are traditional Blackstone Valley towns like Burrillville, Smithfield, and North Smithfield being split from the rest of the valley? Does Smithfield have more in common with Westerly and Block Island than it does with Lincoln? These plans drastically change the landscape of traditionalRhode Island communities and that is exactly what redistricting is not supposed to do.
I am extremely disappointed and share the frustration of many Rhode Islanders, including members of the Reapportionment Commission and other elected officials who are outraged by what appears to be blatant political opportunism at work. In the absence of any logic, the only conclusion available is political gamesmanship. These antics and the resulting conflict between the members of our Congressional delegation, including allegations of deceit and manipulation, will end up as another black eye for the image of Rhode Island’s elected officials in the opinion of our residents.”
Congressman Jim Langevin also opposes the latest plan. He favors instead a redrawing of congressional districts that would involve far fewer people and concentrate the changes in Providence.