Politics & Elections

RI redistricting hearings on the move. First stop: Newport

Republicans boycotted the meeting because they felt the Covid restrictions were too stringent. Participants had the option of with providing proof of vaccination or taking a quick Covid test before entering.
Photo for RI redistricting hearings on the move. First stop: Newport

Published on October 4, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

Observers of the fourth meeting of the Rhode Island General Assembly’s Commission on Redistricting may have noticed that the four Republican members, Representatives David Place (District 47, Burrillville, Glocester) and Brian Newberry (District 48, North Smithfield, Burrillville) and Senators Jessica de la Cruz (District 23, Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield) and Gordon Rogers (District 21, Foster, Coventry, Scituate, West Greenwich) were not present. They boycotted the meeting because they felt the Covid restrictions were too stringent. Participants had the option of with providing proof of vaccination or taking a quick Covid test before entering.

Representative David Place said in a statement that “members of the General Assembly should not be required to provide personal medical information, and/or submit to a medical test, as a prerequisite to fulfilling their constitutional duties.” He added that there are “alternative locations to facilitate this important discussion that do not require this unprecedented mandate.”

See Place’s all statement below.


See all previous reporting on the 2021 Redistricting process in Rhode Island here:


Despite the absence of the Republicans at the meeting, there was a quorum and the commission conducted its business.

The Redistricting Commission’s hired consultant, Kimball Brace, gave a presentation on the redistricting process. Much of Brace’s presentation was covered in previous meetings of the commission, but this information was presented with a Newport focus.

Newport City Councilmember Jaimie Bova was the first person to testify (of three) in Newport. She was concerned that the commission meeting wasn’t advertised well enough to local Newport residents.

Tracy Nelson, Canvassing Clerk for the City of Newport, asked for examples of “communities of interest,’ an ill defined concept in redistricting that seems to serve as a catchall for organizing populations for purposes of voting.

Rob Rock, Director of Elections for Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea asked what communities could be doing now to prepare for redistricting.

The next meeting will be in Woonsocket, on Monday night.

Representative David Place’s full statement:

“My concerns regarding vaccine passport mandates are well documented in my public comments, in anti-vax passport legislation I submitted, and in bipartisan anti-vax passport legislation I co-sponsored.

“Upon receipt of the meeting schedule for the Redistricting Commission, which notified members of the vaccine passport requirements, I immediately notified the co-chairs that I would not comply with either the passport or the medical testing requirements for attendance at the public hearing scheduled for today (September 30th) on the CCRI campus in Newport. There are many alternative locations to facilitate this important discussion that do not require this unprecedented mandate.

“I believe that members of the General Assembly should not be required to provide personal medical information, and/or submit to a medical test, as a prerequisite to fulfilling their constitutional duties. At no other time during my public service have I been asked to provide medical records or testing to participate in the legislative process.

“Once this precedent is set, we will greatly endanger the power of the legislative branch by decreasing our ability to represent those we serve –our constituents.

“Another concern I share with others on the Commission, is that the vaccine passport requirements disproportionately impact certain identified communities, both on a municipal basis and demographic basis.

“These disparate impacts apply directly to the community of Newport where fewer than 55% of residents have been fully vaccinated.

“This means that 45% of Newport residents cannot participate in the public hearing without first submitting to a medical test, where accuracy is questionable at best and from which a false positive can result in a complete disruption of an individual’s life.”

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