It’s no surprise for those who follow politics, this is an election year.
Of course, those who really don’t pay all that much attention to politics are likely to know this is a presidential election year, too. And it’s not all that long before things start heating up – the state’s presidential primary is April 24.
But this election cycle is also the first since the 2010 Census, meaning redistricting to reflect shifts in population must also be in place 90 days prior to the June deadline for candidates to declare for office. That puts everything in March.
A lot has to happen between now and then. State House and Senate districts, as well as city wards, must be defined.
Some of the work has already been done on the state districts, although the recommendations of the redistricting committee have yet to be approved by legislators.
In the opinion of Senator Michael McCaffrey, who co-chaired the redistricting committee, the process “went smoothly” other than controversy surrounding the realignment of the state’s two Congressional districts.
“By the end of the day it came out fine,” McCaffrey said.
What happens with the House districts, more so than the Senate districts, will have an impact on the city’s nine wards.
Joseph Gallucci, clerk of the city’s Board of Canvassers, has been through it before and wasn’t overly concerned last week that everything will come together in time to meet deadlines. So far, like McCaffrey, he notes the liveliest discussion has focused on the state’s two Congressional districts and what was seen as a contorted effort to tack on sections to the First Congressional District where David Cicilline is completing is first term when minor adjustments to Providence would have given the district the added 7,200 needed to make for equal districts.
The dustup between Jim Langevin, incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District, and Cicilline has settled with areas outside of Providence being added to the Second District.
Since the last census, Warwick has lost about 3,000 residents for a total population of 82,000. Divided evenly, each of the city’s nine wards should then have about 9,110 persons.
Districts and wards are based on population, not registered voters, Gallucci reminds.
In the last 10 years, Wards 8 and 9 in the western sector of the city have either retained or gained population while other sections of the city have lost it. This will require shaving off neighborhoods from those wards and placing them in adjoining wards.
Ward 3, which borders Green Airport and all but Wards 1 and 9, meanwhile has lost the most population. A good portion of what Ward 3 has lost is a result of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation voluntary land acquisition program. But, as Gallucci points out, foreclosures have likewise had an impact across the city. Warwick has had the highest rate of single-family house foreclosure in the state.
Where redistricting gets tricky is integrating state districts and city wards to end up with consistent voting districts.
“The rep [State House] lines are the key,” says Gallucci. At one time, before the House and Senate were downsized, the House lines pretty much conformed to the wards and the city had nine representatives.
Now that there are fewer representatives, the one-for-one match isn’t possible and, according to the plan approved by the state redistricting committee, some districts, like District 20, extend from Apponaug into Cranston.
Helping sort this all out will be Election Data Services of Washington, D.C., the firm that did the state and city redistricting plans following the 2000 Census. EDS was the only bidder for the city job at $60,000 this time around. The city “piggybacked” on the state bid of about $700,000, Gallucci said.
EDS President Kimball Brace will work with a committee named by City Council President Bruce Place and directed to return to the council with a ward redistricting plan.
Overall, Gallucci put the cost of implementing a ward redistricting of the city at around “six figures.”