Rhode Island

Rhode Island

Redistricting Process: Legislative Population Change (since 2000): 4,248
Legislature: Democratic Seats: 2
Governor: Lincoln Chafee (I) Members of Congress: 2D
Party Control: Split 2012: 62.7% Obama, 35.5% Romney

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Three maps are available for each state. Each has new district outlines in bold.
Click on each district on the map to see more information.
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New Districts by Party Representation

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Rhode Island

Overall, Rhode Island has remained mostly unchanged since the 2000 Census. The 2010 Census witnessed a Rhode Island population trend that characterizes much of the Northeast: the overall population barely grows, and minorities’ numbers increase, especially the number of Latinos and Hispanics. The total population increased from 1,048,319 to 1,052,567 between 2000 and 2010, a mere 4,000-person gain. The white (non-Hispanic) population dropped by 6.6%, but large gains in the number of minorities accounts for the overall population increase. The percentage of African Americans in Rhode Island grew from 4.5 to 7.2%, and the Asian population grew from 2.3 to 3.1%. Hispanics and Latinos, Rhode Islands’ largest racial group, grew from 8.7 to 12.8% in population, a 4.1% increase. Whites’ percentage of the population dropped from 82 to 76%. Rhode Island’s .4% gain in population was not enough to warrant change in its number of congressional representatives as it remains at two.

Rhode Island’s Special Commission of Reapportionment is responsible for redrawing the state’s congressional lines. Leadership in the state’s General Assembly appoints members to the Commission—6 from the State House, 6 from the State Senate, and 6 members of the public. In the summer of 2011, the General Assembly outlined the Commission structure. For 2010, the Speaker of the House and Senate President each appoint four members from their respective bodies and three members of the public. Additionally, the Minority Leaders in the State House and Senate appoint two members of their respective bodies to the Commission. Democrats hold overwhelming majorities in both houses of the state’s bicameral legislature; the inclusion of the Minority Leaders is an attempt to check the large majorities’ influence on the Commission. The Commission must approve the lines and present them to the state General Assembly by January 15th, 2012. Once the House and Senate approve the maps, they will go to the Governor’s desk. He either approves or overrides the Commission’s proposal. Once he approves the lines, they take effect, hopefully in time for fall elections.

Rhode Island’s Commission members were appointed in August 2011. State Assembly Leadership did not break party lines as they appointed four Republicans and eight Democrats. The state only received one mapping offer, which they accepted (Election Data Services). The Commission needed to shift approximately 7,000 Rhode Island residents from District 2 to District 1 due to population shifts. On December 12th, 2011, a proposed map moved over 100,000 residents between District 2 to District 1 to make up for the difference. The proposal cut almost all of Providence within District 1, making it heavily Democratic and accounting for 71% of Rhode Island’s population. District 2 Democratic Representative, James Langevin, and Republican state representatives spoke out against the lines. Representative Langevin was concerned about Providence only having on representative, fearing it would diminish the city’s influence at the national level. Rhode Island Republicans took issue with the Commission drawing both potential Republican challengers out of freshman Democratic Congressman David Cicilline’s district. The lines would consolidate his advantage and protect a seat the Republicans see as in play as it adds Democratic areas and cuts townships Rep. Cicilline lost in 2010 (Burrillville, North Smithfield, and Smithfield).

In response to the criticism, the Commission presented new maps on December 15th. The new plan shifted 70,000 people between districts instead of 100,000, but somewhat appeased the Republicans by cutting dividing up Providence. The new lines added North Smithfield and Smith to District 1, but still shifted Burrillville to District 2. The Commission approved the lines 11-6 and on December 19th and submitted to the General Assembly for approval, safely meeting the January 15th deadline. The State House approved the maps on February 1st and the Senate on February 2nd. Governor Lincoln Chafee approved the new congressional lines on February 8th.The congressional maps did not face any legal challenges.

First District

Rhode Islands’ First Congressional District is home to 526,283 Rhode Islanders. It covers most of the eastern section of the state and the majority of the state’s coastline. It is 75.6% white (non-Hispanic) and 11.9% Hispanic/Latino. The Cook Partisan Voting Index has the Democrat at a +14 advantage. In the 2002-2010 lines, the district cut through Providence, but the new district includes more of the City of Providence, lending to a stronger partisan rating (from D+13 to +14). District One used to include the Township of Burrellville in the northwest corner of the state, a township that the Rep. Cicilline lost in 2010 41% to 53%. This change should help him in his re-election bid as he faces Republican challenger Brendan Doherty and three unaffiliated candidates. An October poll had Cicilline at a 6-point advantage.

Second District

Rhode Island’s Second District encompasses the western half of the state. It has a population of 526,284 and is the fastest growing part of the state. Historically, its residents are of Irish, Italian, French, and Portuguese decent. It is 84% white (non Hispanic), leaving a small non-white population of 16%. Compared to the old District Two, the current lines geographically encompass less of Providence. This compensates for the addition of the Township of Burrillville. The district favors Democrats less now with redistricting as its Cook Partisan Voting index moved from a Democrat +9 to +8 due to the geographic changes mentioned above. Representative James Langevin has represented the district since 2001. He won 60% of the vote in 2010, and is favored to win against Michael G. Riley, the Republican challenger. Despite Representative Langevin’s incumbent status, the two candidates have similar cash on hand numbers.