Bill on counting inmates in voting districts passes key Senate committee

Cranston, ACLU await ruling in legal battle

Daniel Kittredge
Posted 5/2/14

The bill – S 2286, submitted by state Sen. Harold Metts, D-Providence – would require that prisoners be considered as residents of their most recent home address. Cranston counts residents of the Adult Correctional Institution as residents of Ward 6, which the ACLU has characterized as “prison-based gerrymandering.”

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Bill on counting inmates in voting districts passes key Senate committee

Cranston, ACLU await ruling in legal battle

Posted

As a ruling is awaited in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island’s legal action against Cranston in connection with the city’s recent redistricting, a key Senate panel has given its backing to a proposal that would prevent the counting of prisoners as residents when drawing voting districts.

The bill – S 2286, submitted by state Sen. Harold Metts, D-Providence – would require that prisoners be considered as residents of their most recent home address. Cranston counts residents of the Adult Correctional Institution as residents of Ward 6, which the ACLU has characterized as “prison-based gerrymandering.”

“Because of our small size and presence of only one prison location in the state, Rhode Island has been called the worst example of prison-based gerrymandering in the country. Approval of this legislation represents a tremendous step forward in upholding the principle of ‘one person, one vote’ and restoring equal representation for all Rhode Island voters. We applaud the Senate Judiciary Committee’s action on this legislation, and look forward to a vote on the Senate floor in the near future and, ultimately, approval by the House,” said Hillary Davis, ACLU policy associate, in a statement following the recent vote.

The ACLU was joined by four Cranston residents – Karen Davidson, Debbie Flitman, Eugene Perry and Sylvia Weber – as plaintiffs in the suit against Cranston in February. Citing the “one person, one vote” principle, they argue that the city’s 2012 redistricting plan – which includes the ACI’s population in the roughly 13,000 overall figure for Ward 6 – should be ruled unconstitutional because it gives the residents of Ward 6 disproportionate influence compared with other residents.

The city, meanwhile, has argued striking down the current plan would have ripple effects on state legislative and congressional districts, and has asked that the suit be dismissed.

The two sides made their case in U.S. District Court last week, and a written ruling is expected.

Comments

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Wuggly

Prisoners shouldn't vote or be counted as voters while paying their debt to society. The other side of the coin would be if that is the only way the State and Federal Government will count them as far as population. I can see where that could be necessary. Police, Fire and Rescue that Cranston taxpayers pay for need a number to submit a bill to the State.

Sunday, May 4, 2014
InTheW

Metts is a joke.

Monday, May 5, 2014
LoniM

No your not getting it. They are being counted as residents. They are being counted in a way that gives ward 6 more power because it seems to be bigger when if fact there is no voter power for those inmates. You got it in your second sentence exactly.

The inmates are not willing residents of ward 6 they are temporarily housed there. Any "vote" per se would be in regards to ones own community not where they are imprisoned...

Thursday, May 8, 2014