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The battle over the JCLS is also about gerrymandering

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“It’s called gerrymandering, and it is done to the extreme here,” continued House Minority Leader Blake Filippi. “We fully support Common Cause’s initiative for a citizen’s commission to draw legislative districts, not legislators, which will vindicate our most fundamental right to vote in this Republic.”


State Representative Blake Filippi (Republican, District 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) is suing his fellow members of the JCLS (Joint Committee on Legislative Services) over Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15 Cranston)’s refusal to hold open, democratic meeting of the Committee when making important decisions. While JCLS has many statutory responsibilities[note]Responsibilities of the JCLS include hiring employees, appointing an executive director, setting compensation, controlling House and Senate appropriations, entering into contracts, managing the printing of the General Assembly, appointing a law revision director, directing the auditor general to engage in audits, maintaining, repairing and renovation the State Capitol building, ensuring office space for legislators, supplies, equipment, professional and technical assistance, maintaining the records of the General Assembly, managing the information systems of the General Assembly, managing the legislative grant program and managing the electronic voting devices for the General Assembly.[/note], one of the most important is the hiring of an election consultant to redraw the state legislative district maps in response to the new census figures, something that happens every ten years.

Since 1982, the state’s redistricting consultant has been Kimball Brace, called the “Picasso of Gerrymandering” on The Daily Show in 2013:

Due to gerrymandering of the kind Brace brings to Rhode Island, our state is considered one of the best examples of Democratic party gerrymandering in the country.

In his reply to Governor Gina Raimondo‘s recent State of the State Address, Filippi said it is time to “protect the sanctity of our elections,” adding, “Right now, we allow Senate and House leadership to draw up our Senate and House legislative districts – benefiting those in power at the expense of our right to choose our representatives.

“It’s called gerrymandering, and it is done to the extreme here,” continued Filippi. “We fully support Common Cause’s initiative for a citizen’s commission to draw legislative districts, not legislators, which will vindicate our most fundamental right to vote in this Republic.”


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I asked Filippi if JCLS control of the redistricting process is a concern.

“Frankly, if they go hire this guy [Brace] without a meeting of the JCLS, that will just be another paragraph in our complaint,” said Filippi.

Here’s the full press conference:


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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com