Reapportionment and Redistricting Commission Records, 1980-1983 | State Archives Catalog
The idea of establishing a formal requirement for periodic reapportionment and redistricting was given expression in the 1961 state statute establishing a Commission on the Revision of the Constitution. The Reapportionment Commission was established in January 1980 (PL 1980, ch. 146). The commission became entangled in numerous political, legal, and constitutional battles and involved several court cases challenging the results of its reapportionment and redistricting work.
On June 18, 1981 the Reapportionment Commission held its first meeting. At that meeting the Commission voted to direct the staff to compile information on the subject of "deviation from the ideal."
In late October and early November 1981, the Commission invited the public to five hearings in areas around the state to present their views on reapportionment.
At the second meeting on January 22, 1982, the Commission announced plans to hold public hearings on the proposed districts, and approved the hiring of a consultant who began work in the fall of 1981. A new chair for the Commission was elected (the first chair resigned to take another office).
On January 27, 1982 it proposed Senate districts were presented, and on January 28 proposed House districts were presented. The "guidelines" for drawing the lines were also formally adopted at the January 28 meeting.
On April 9, 1982 a statutory reapportionment plan for state senatorial and representative districts and United States congressional districts became law. This statute repealed the 1974 Rhode Island reapportionment scheme. On June 7, 1982, however, the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed a judgment of the state superior court that struck down the new senatorial redistricting provision on federal and state constitutional grounds. Licht v. Quattrochi, C.A. Number 82-0259, (R.I. July 7, 1982). The Rhode Island legislature then enacted a new reapportionment plan for state senatorial districts. The Governor, however, vetoed this bill. He ordered the legislature to reconvene in a special session for the purpose of re-enacting the same bill with an effective date after the November 1982 elections in order to afford an opportunity to test the constitutionality of the new senatorial plan in the courts.
The legislature reconvened and passed H9101, which provided that the new senatorial reapportionment plan would be effective beginning with the 1984 elections. In addition, section one of H9101 repealed the portion of the April 1982 statute that abrogated the 1974 senatorial lines, thus reviving them for use in the 1982 elections.
On January 15, 1982 the League of Women Voters complained to the Attorney General that the Commission had been violating the Open Meeting Law because it appeared they had been meeting without giving public notice, or even notifying all Commission members of the meetings. The Attorney General responded that there had been no violation of the Open Meeting Law because meetings held in November, December and January were either "work sessions" or political party meetings. The first chair of the Commission threatened to sue the League for libel.
Once the proposed districts were presented, critics of the plan complained of political gerrymandering, dilution of minority power, inequality of districts, and the short period of time available for evaluation and comment on plans. At public hearings held after the district plans were presented, members of the Commission were adversarial with various members of the public who spoke out against the Commission plan at the hearing.
On July 8, 1982 the Rhode Island Senate convened in a special session and passed a resolution creating a seven member Select Senate Redistricting Committee to develop a new senatorial reapportionment plan. The Rhode Island General Assembly enacted the plan recommended by the Redistricting Committee on July 20, 1082. The Governor, however, vetoed this plan because of his concern that it would not be possible to institute it and still hold the 1982 senatorial elections on schedule. The General Assembly then passed 82-H-9101 which revived the 1974 senatorial lines for use in the 1982 elections, and provided that the new senatorial reapportionment plan developed by the Redistricting Committee would take effect beginning with the 1984 elections.
On July 30, 1982 Jonathan K Farnum and James W. Hayes, Jr. individually and on behalf of all registered voters in Rhode Island, filed a complaint in this Court challenging the use of the 1974 senatorial lines in the 1982 elections under both the state and federal Constitutions. The parties agreed that, in light of the 1980 census, the 1974 district lines violated the one-person, one-vote principle of Reynolds v. Sims, 377, U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964). They disagreed as to whether the impending senate election should and could proceed under the unconstitutional 1974 lines to avoid disruption of the state's normal electoral processes.
On August 11, 1982 the U.S. District Court, D. Rhode Island decided that the 1974 lines could not be used, and on February 11, 1983 the court decided that "defendants' proposed Providence district lines constituted political gerrymandery." The state senatorial elections were finally held on June 21, 1983- more than seven months after elections should have been held. Until then "lame duck" legislators continued to serve, and make decisions on budget and other business. Between court costs and the costs of a special senate primary and election, Rhode Island taxpayers paid approximately $1.5 million to straighten everything out. A final court case, Farnum vs. Burns 561 F.Supp. 83 (1983)United States District Court D. Rhode Island.February 11, 1983 concluded the litigation.
For records of other Rhode Island redistricting commissions, click here.
Other electoral boundary maps, which may or may not have been produced for this commission, are listed in the State Archives' MapCatalog.
The records of the General Assembly include an assortment of documentation submitted to it by various bodies relationing to reapportionment, including reports filed by the various reapportionment commissions. (See black boxes.)
Licht, et al. v. Quattrocchi, et al.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s invalidation of the legislative reapportionment plan on the grounds it violated the “one-person, one-vote” principle and equal population requirements, had noncompact districts and diluted minority voting strength. In a related matter, (advisory opinion to the Governor 450 A.2d 329), the court held by invalidating the reapportionment statute, it also invalidated the portion of the act repealing the 1974 redistricting plan. Thus, the 1974 plan retained the force of law.
Farnum, et al. v. Burns (548 F. Supp. 1679 (1982)
Plaintiffs asked the federal district court to issue an injunction to prevent 1982 senatorial elections from being conducted under the 1974 reapportionment scheme. Defendants argued that the injunction would prevent the state from conducting the elections on time. The court held that even if carried out under the 1974 plan, the elections would not be conducted on time, and if conducted all other elections would be delayed. The court enjoined the conduct of the senate elections pending enactment of a valid plan.
Farnum, et al. v. Burns (II) 561 F. Supp. (1982)
The federal district court reconvened to adopt a senate redistricting plan. The court considered two plans, and created a plan that combined elements of, both.