Redistricting Battles and No Transparency

I’ve asked before, why does the state’s redistricting process need to be done this way? The state hires an outside consultant who takes some of the data, draws a map, shows it to some people, gets feedback, draws another map and the process continues until finally a few of them agree that they’ve created a fair map. Then they present it to the others who it affects. And then the whole mess starts.
In recent editions of the Providence Journal (again, a source I’d love to link to, but they don’t make it possible, so umm, if you want to check some of the statements I use, head to your local library and ask for back issues), some of the lawmakers at the State House have not been very happy about the process.

[Rep. Larry] Ehrhardt, not satisfied, asked Brace whether he had taken the pockets into consideration in December when he proposed the House districts in the bill, to which Brace said no. Ehrhardt also asked Brace “who were you trying to please or satisfy” by making the change, but committee Chairwoman Edith H. Ajello interrupted.

The Assembly has budgeted more than $800,000 for lawsuits from the process. A sum that Ehrhardt might force the state to use:

“This is a high school dance that’s about to break out into a fistfight,” he said. He declined to say afterward whether he might file a lawsuit.

House Minority Leader Brian Newberry asked what factors went into creating certain parts of his district, and the response wasn’t well received.

Brace said that “there were a lot of different factors,” but he did not offer specifics.
Newberry said the answer “reflects very poorly” on the redistricting process.

Earlier in the process, State Rep. Joe Trillo asked questions about the process and what was behind it:

Brace said he was doing his best at following orders—making sure politics played a role in the process of redistricting

It would seem that complaints are only coming from the Republicans, but there are Democrats who had their own objections as well.

Charlene Lima said the state redistricting commission’s “road show” of meetings across the state was nothing but a “fraud show.”

And another Democrat:

Rep. Rene R. Menard, a Lincoln Democrat whose territory includes both districts, says the motivation for the change is purely political.
“People who weren’t in the good graces with leadership got punished,” the veteran lawmaker said.

And another:

The House map drew criticism from Rep Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, D-Woonsocket, and Burrillville Republican Donald R. Fox, who said the changes proposed in their respective districts appeared to have been politically motivated.

Sour grapes or “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”? When you have multiple people, on both sides of the aisle, all saying the same thing, it sure leaves a sour taste toward your government.
Also according to the Journal: “Rhode Island is paying a consultant $692,420 and has budgeted another $807,580 for legal fees”. Doesn’t this $1.5 million seem outlandish? I know others have mentioned that the federal government offers a free option, and our Assembly made us the only state in the country that chose to not use it. They claimed that it’s not exactly “free” that there are other costs in using it.
But as I’ve suggested before, there’s an easier and cheaper way. Ever seen a post-election ballot re-count? It’s wide open to the public and extremely transparent. So why isn’t the redistricting process? Who would think it to be a good idea to do an election recount at the State House in the closed-door offices of the Speaker or Senate President and then they just tell us how it turned out? That’s what this redistricting process is like. So instead, I have a better way.
First, actually put all the data together, unlike this time when we have maps being created and being discussed and possibly even voted on before all the data is even submitted (what’s the point?). Create a committee consisting of all parties and independents, put them in a big room with the Capitol TV or Cox Public Access cameras on. No work can be done unless the cameras are on, and then as long as it takes, that committee draws the maps, based on the publicly-available data.
Yes, we’ll still have some sour grapes coming out of the committee, but at least it will be fair and likely less politically driven. No more considerations will be given to pitting incumbents against each other, no more special favors. Make it about Rhode Island and what is best for the state and its voters. After all, isn’t that really what government is supposed to be about?

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George D
George D
9 years ago

There are discrepancies in some of the legal descriptions of the Senate and House District lines in Bills before the General Assembly.
S-2178 and H-7209 have been updated with sub A versions. It is important that the people representing those districts check the legal wording and make sure they coincide with what is on the map.
The US Census Bureau could have saved RI hundreds of thousands of dollars to accomplish the same thing with fewer disruptions. But then Cicilline couldn’t have carved up CD-1 the way he did. Gerrymandering at its best.

John
John
9 years ago

Patrick! Patrick! PATRICK!!! Come, wake up. You must have been dreaming. You mumbled something about the way government should work? What was that all about?

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