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New RI redistricting plan would move fewer voters

By David Klepper
Associated Press / December 15, 2011
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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—The latest proposal to redraw Rhode Island's political districts would shift fewer voters between the state's two Congressional districts than earlier plans.

The plan, released Thursday, would move voters in Burrillville from U.S. Rep. David Cicilline's district into the one now represented by Congressman Jim Langevin. Cicilline's district would absorb additional voters in Providence. Both men are Democrats.

Earlier proposals would move as many as seven communities. One unveiled earlier this week would shift the towns of Burrillville, Smithfield and North Smithfield into Langevin's district.

The plan released Thursday was crafted in response to critics who said earlier plans went too far and seemed designed to move Republican voters out of Cicilline's district.

That plan would have moved more than 100,000 people between districts. The plan released Thursday would move about 70,000.

"We have heard the criticism," said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a firm hired by the state to work on the redistricting effort.

A Commission on Reapportionment is now weighing several proposals to redraw legislative and congressional districts. The commission plans to vote Monday on which proposal to recommend to the state's General Assembly, which will have the final say on the changes. Lawmakers plan to kick off their 2012 session early next month.

Redistricting occurs every decade to account for shifts in population. Officials hope to have the new political district lines in place before next year's elections.

At Thursday's commission meeting an open government group called on the commission to delay Monday's scheduled vote. Common Cause Rhode Island executive director John Marion said key redistricting data have not been released. Marion said he's most interested in seeing demographic data on minority populations to gauge whether their voices will be heard within new political districts.

"Pause the process," he asked commission members, noting that they have a month to submit a recommendation to lawmakers. "There are a few weeks left."

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