A lot can be at stake when district lines change

don’t expect Nancy Pelosi to rush in and try to save Rhode Island’s second congressional district for Democrats from a Republican takeover attempt this year.

President of Rhode Island House K.Joseph Shekarchi On Thursday, he said he had received no calls from Pelosi or anyone else in Washington to redraw the lines of the state’s congressional district to make the district look a little more blue.

“Nobody. Nobody in Rhode Island or out of Rhode Island has contacted me about the redistricting,” Shekarchi said. “I don’t foresee any large-scale changes, but there is a process. … The public will step in. We’ll see what comes out of that public process.”

When state and federal district borders were last redrawn a decade ago, tens of thousands of votes in Democratic Providence were added to Rep. David Cicilline‘s First Congressional District while the more conservative Burrillville moved to the Second District, despite the representative’s objections. Jim Langevin.

The good, the bad, the memorable:An exit interview with U.S. Representative Jim Langevin

In the decade that followed, Cicilline’s First District moved leftward, and Langevin’s shock decision not to seek re-election, eliminating any incumbent advantage, sparked suggestions that Democrats had better stand reverse at least part of the 2022 gerrymander.

But those big 2012 shifts in congressional constituencies happened early in the redistricting process, not in the House or Senate. (The initial 2012 maps had even bigger changes than those that were eventually approved.)

Although the Rhode Island Redistricting Commission is effectively controlled by the General Assembly, it is technically one of five states with an advisory commission, according to Common Cause. Nineteen states have redistricting commissions in one form or another, seven of which are independent commissions and seven of which are part of the legislature.

National Director of Redistricting for Common Cause Kathy feng said Friday that it is not uncommon for state legislatures to disregard maps drawn by advisory commissions.

That’s what happened in New York this year, where Democratic lawmakers are debating whether to draw a gerrymander 23 democrats, three republicans or a gerrymander of 22 Democrats and four Republicans.

Rhode Island’s redistricting bill is expected to be released early next week ahead of committee hearings and an Assembly vote by Feb. 18.

Can we rule out a big surprise change to the maps the Redistricting Commission passed earlier this month?

“I’m not ruling anything out,” Shekarchi said. “I don’t foresee that, but I won’t rule it out.”

Smithfield, Senate District 22

So if the Congressional cake is already baked, that leaves the shifting lines of State Senate District 22 in Lincoln and Smithfield as the most notable remaining plot of Rhode Island’s decade-long redistricting process.

Senate District 22, to recap, represents all of Smithfield and small chunks of Johnston and North Providence.

The district’s eastern boundary follows the Smithfield town limit, stretching north from Twin River Road through woods, fields, wetlands, and some 50 acres of land owned by Sen. Stephane Archambaultwho has represented the district since 2013.

In this case, Archambault was co-chair of the Redistricting Commission. At the commission’s last meeting on January 12, she unveiled and then approved new maps that moved the boundary of Senate 22 to Lincoln, carving out a slice of territory that put more Archambault property in her district.


Two weeks later, it’s still a mystery.

When GOP members of the commission questioned the change ahead of the vote, Archambault remained silent and the task of explaining it fell to a longtime consultant on precinct redrawings. Kimball splintwho told the commission that Lincoln residents had expressed a desire to be part of Senate 22.

Days after the commission’s final vote, Political Scene followed Brace to learn more about these worried Lincoln voters.

He said the commission had received “various communications from a number of people,” including comments on the RIredistricting.org website, but could not say exactly why those Lincoln residents wanted the line changed.

His deputy ryan taylor had spoken with affected residents and redrawn the Senate 22 line, he said.

No one testified about the boundaries of the Senate in any of the 18 public hearings held by the commission.

Whatever their concern, the anonymous residents of Lincoln left no paper trail.

In response to a request from the political arena for access to public records, the Redistricting Commission (through the Joint Legislative Services Committee) said it had not received any written communications, including e-mails. emails, directly, through Voter Data Services, or through the RIredistricting.org website about the Senate. District 22.

Brace said he did not speak to Archambault about moving the eastern boundary of Senate 22 to Lincoln.

Generally, the commission attributed most of the map changes to the need to equalize the population between districts to account for the movement of people.

But the addition of 605 people from Lincoln to Senate 22 moved the district away from the target population (1,027 people above target) compared to the previous map. And the withdrawal of residents from Senate District 17 leaves that district short of the goal by more than 1,400 people.

Whether the change helps Archambault politically is not immediately apparent.

The rural area attracted to Senate 22 is conservative and is now represented in the Senate by Lincoln Republican Thomas Paolinowho is not happy to lose it.

After the new map was released, observers wondered if Archambault intended to build on the part of his 50-acre estate that is in Lincoln and whether he wanted to stay in the neighborhood if he ended up living there. on this side of the line.

A day after the commission’s vote, Archambault released a statement saying he was proud to co-chair “the most transparent and diverse commission in our state’s history.”

“As a longtime resident of the area in question, I can understand why the consultant placed this Lincoln neighborhood in Senate District 22,” he said. “There are several common interests, underscored by the fact that many of these homes are more easily accessible by traveling through Smithfield. While these changes make Senate District 22 more Republican, I fully support them as they keep communities together. interest together.”

For what it’s worth, the building officials Christophe McWhite in Smithfield and Roger Pierce in Lincoln said no building permit applications have been filed for any of the Archambault-owned addresses in those cities.

Archambault isn’t the only state lawmaker living in the “community of interest” moving from district to district.

State Representative Gregory Costantino of Lincoln moves into Senate 22 of Senate District 17 under the new map.

Does he want to run for the Senate at some point if Archambault steps down?

“I’m happy in the House,” he said, though he wouldn’t rule out a Senate decision at some point if conditions changed. “If it’s an opportunity, I’ll take a look.”

Costantino said he didn’t tell Brace or anyone else about the district boundaries.

Political scene caught up with Archambault before the Senate meets on Tuesday and asks him about his district.

He declined to discuss it, but said everything would be explained when the cards were heard by the committee.

Lieutenant Governor?

The House Co-Chair of the Redistricting Commission was Rep. Robert Phillips.

And he could run for lieutenant governor.

The Woonsocket Democrat told Political Scene that he is considering a campaign for the position, but has not committed to one.

Currently, the Lieutenant Governor’s estate includes Sen. Cynthia Mendes on the Democratic side with the outgoing lieutenant governor. Sabine Matos is also expected to show up, though she hasn’t officially announced it.

On the Republican side, Paul Pencewho raced four years ago, said he intended to do so again.

Who is running for Congress?

Certainly in the race are the Democrats Omar Bah, Edwin Pacheco and Seth Magazine; and republicans Robert Lancia and Jessica de la Cruz.

Who is seriously considering it?

Old Gina Raimondo aid Joy Fox said Friday night that she was continuing to “take serious steps to mount a race.”

Earlier Friday Michel Nearya former Ohio Republican staffer Jean Kasichsaid he was forming an exploratory committee to consider a candidacy as a Democrat.

The list of people who said they were considering it or not ruling it out, but had not committed included Democratic state representatives. Therese Tanzi, Carol Hagan McEntee and Robert Craven. Former state health director Dr. Nicole Alexandre Scottwhose last day in that job was Thursday, said earlier this week she was “weighing a number of different options” and was unreachable on Friday.

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In his run for the Second Congressional District, Magaziner, a resident of the First Congressional District, is already facing questions about whether someone outside the district can represent him.

Legally he can. The US Constitution requires members of Congress to live in the state they represent, but not in the district.

Whether that plays with voters is another matter. Magaziner said he would move west into District 2, but did not say when.

How rare is it for members of Congress to live outside of their district?

In 2017, a Washington Post analysis found that 20 members of Congress lived outside the district they represent.

In some cases, legislators had lived in the districts they ran to represent, but were moved out of bounds by redistricting.

With reporting by Journal Editor Katherine Gregg.

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