Rhode Island

State website: Rhode Island Redistricting Project (archived site)
2010-cycle districts: Congress, State Senate, State House  « NEW 
2000-cycle districts: Congress, State Senate, State House
Primary governing law: R.I. Const. art. VII, § 1; art. VIII, § 1

The Latest

On June 22, 2011, the governor signed into law H 6096 and S 924, which establish an advisory commission for drawing state legislative and congressional districts.

On December 19, the commission voted to recommend draft congressional lines, to be reviewed by the legislature. On February 1, 2012, the legislature passed S 2178, and on February 2, it passed H 7209; both were signed by the Governor on February 8. The identical bills each cover state and federal districts. A lawsuit challenging the state House lines was rejected.

  • Institution

    Redistricting political control:

    Governor State Senate State House
    Congressional lines I 29 D, 8 R, 1 O 65 D, 10 R
    (could override veto)
    State legislative lines I 29 D, 8 R, 1 O 65 D, 10 R
    (could override veto)
    2000 cong. lines R 43 D, 7 R 87 D, 13 R
    (could override veto)
    2000 state lines R 43 D, 7 R 87 D, 13 R
    (could override veto)

    Rhode Island's congressional and state legislative lines are both drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.

    In 2011, Rhode Island established an 18-member advisory commission to assist this process. The state Senate and state House majority leaders each choose four commissioners who are members of the legislature and three who are not; the state Senate and state House minority leaders each choose two additional commissioners who are members of the legislature. Members of the commission, named on August 25, are listed here. [2011 R.I. Laws ch. 106, § 1; 2011 R.I. Laws ch. 100, § 1]

    This commission recommends congressional and state legislative plans to the legislature, which may adopt, modify, or ignore the commission's proposals.


  • Timing

    Census data were delivered to Rhode Island on March 23, 2011.

    Rhode Island law does not impose a particular deadline for drawing congressional or state legislative lines, though the advisory committee must make its recommendations by January 15, 2012, and candidates must file for congressional and state legislative primary elections by June 27, 2012. [R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-14-1; 2011 R.I. Laws ch. 106, § 4; 2011 R.I. Laws ch. 100, § 4] The 2011 regular legislative session began on January 4, 2011, and ends July 1, 2011.

    The Rhode Island constitution ties the drawing of state legislative lines to the Census, and might therefore be construed to prohibit redrawing lines mid-decade; there is no similar provision pertaining to congressional lines. [R.I. Const. art. VII, § 1; art. VIII, § 1]


  • Public input

    Rhode Island statutes direct the advisory commission to conduct public hearings before recommending a plan or plans to the legislature, and assert that software used for redistricting will be made available in the Rhode Island legislature for public access. Materials from past meetings are archived here. [2011 R.I. Laws ch. 106, § 3; 2011 R.I. Laws ch. 100, § 3]


  • Criteria

    Like all states, Rhode Island must comply with constitutional equal population requirements, and further requires that its state legislative districts be as nearly equal in population "as possible." [R.I. Const. art. VII, § 1; art. VIII, § 1; 2011 R.I. Laws ch. 106, § 2(c); 2011 R.I. Laws ch. 100, § 2(c)]

    Rhode Island must also, like all states, abide by section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

    The Rhode Island Constitution further requires that state legislative districts be as compact in territory "as possible." State law does the same for congressional districts. [R.I. Const. art. VII, § 1; art. VIII, § 1; 2011 R.I. Laws ch. 106, § 2(d); 2011 R.I. Laws ch. 100, § 2(d)]

    Rhode Island statutes establish additional criteria for both state legislative and congressional districts; the legislature may modify these statutes at any time. Currently, the law asks that districts be contiguous to the extent practicable, and also that they, to the extent practicable, reflect natural, historical, geographical and municipal and other political lines, "as well as the right of all Rhode Islanders to fair representation and equal access to the political process." Statutes also ask that, to the extent practicable, the lines of state House, state Senate, and congressional districts coincide -- or at least, if they do not overlap completely, they should avoid creating voting precincts with distinct ballot options where the precinct has fewer than 100 people. [2011 R.I. Laws ch. 106, § 2; 2011 R.I. Laws ch. 100, § 2; Parella v. Montalbano, 899 A.2d 1226, 1243-45 (R.I. 2006)]


  • 2010 cycle cases
  • Davidson v. City of Cranston, No. 1:14-cv-00091 (D.R.I.): a challenge in federal court to the city council districts of Cranston, Rhode Island, based on an unconstitutional dilution of equal representation stemming from the city's failure to adjust for the imprisoned population when drawing districts.
         - Complaint (Feb. 19, 2014).
         - Motion to dismiss (Mar. 13), opposition (Mar. 31), reply (Apr. 7).
    The latest: The complaint was filed on February 19, 2014, and a motion to dismiss was filed on March 13.

    Puyana v. Rhode Island, No. PC-2012-1272 (R.I. Super. Ct., Providence): a challenge in state court to the state House districts, on compactness gounds and allegedly improper districting to favor a particular incumbent.
         - Complaint (Mar. 8, 2012) & amended complaint (Mar. 9).
         - Def. motion for judgment on the pleadings (Apr. 9, 2013), opp. (May 14), reply (May 21).
         - Order granting motion for judgment on the pleadings (May 29).
    The latest: On May 29, the court granted the state's motion for judgment on the pleadings, dismissing the case.


  • 2000 cycle

    In the 2000 redistricting cycle, the Rhode Island legislature enacted a statute redrawing both congressional and state legislative lines, on Feb. 20, 2002. The legislature then redrew congressional lines, on June 28, 2002, and under pressure based on a federal case under the Voting Rights Act, also redrew state Senate lines, on June 4, 2004. [Metts v. Murphy, 363 F.3d 8 (1st Cir. 2004)]

    The state Senate plan was challenged in state court, and upheld. [Parella v. Montalbano, 899 A.2d 1226 (R.I. 2006)]

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