Controversy over proposed district lines for districts 47 and 48 in the Blackstone Valley area has spurred the Rhode Island GOP to draw up a lawsuit, citing political gerrymandering as an underlying reason for the new boundaries. However, that action is not expected to delay the redistricting of Warwick wards once that starts.
As proposed, the new districts would cut Republican Donald Fox, a potential competitor to incumbent Representative Cale Keable, out of District 47. Republicans think the two districts, which experienced population shifts, could have been redrawn without cutting Fox out of the picture.
Earlier this month, the GOP threatened to file suit against the redistricting plans, and now, they say they will move forward with the suit.
“We’re crossing the ‘T’s and dotting the ‘I’s,” said Patrick Sweeney, the Rhode Island GOP’s executive director. “It should be filed by the end of this week.”
In an earlier interview, Kimball Brace, the state’s redistricting consultant, said redrawing the districts in another fashion would affect surrounding districts that also underwent population shifts. But Sweeney said in an interview Monday that the wording of the lawsuit would protect other nearby districts.
“This is the best part,” he said. “The changes we’ve made only affect districts 47 and 48.”
Brace isn’t so sure this is possible.
“In their minds it is,” he said yesterday. “But that isn’t necessarily the case when you look at all of the other factors.”
Districts are drawn and redrawn according to population size, and House districts must contain 14,034 people, plus or minus 350. District boundaries are based on historical and geographical lines, and Brace said districts 47 and 48 were redrawn based on school and fire district boundaries.
But Sweeney and GOP contest that the lines were redrawn to specifically ensure that Keable’s competitor Fox, who lost the 2010 election by less than 200 votes, would be removed from his former district.
But Brace said this isn’t so. He contends that if the two districts were redrawn differently, the trickle down effects could cause changes in Providence districts. However, he doubts the effects would be as far-reaching as Warwick.
While the battles rages over the two Blackstone Valley districts, reapportionment is just getting underway in Warwick.
Donna McDonald, Registrar and Director of Elections, said Monady that Council President Bruce Place had named a committee last week consisting of himself and Councilmen John DelGiudice and Steven Colantuono to discuss redrawing Warwick’s ward lines.
Brace will also be working with the city on reapportionment.
“We’re pulling together some numbers now,” he said.
McDonald said the ideal size for a ward would be about 6,500 people. Though she said Ward 8 has grown to more than 8,000 voters, and Ward 3 has shrunken to 6,000, she doesn’t foresee any major changes to ward lines.
“Things will change somewhat,” she said. “But not a great deal.”