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Bill to Stop Counting ACI Inmates as Cranston Residents Passes Senate Committee

The bill, S 2286, should get a vote on the Senate floor in the near future before heading to the House for final approval.

A bill that would end the city of Cranston's practice of counting inmates at the Adult Correctional Institutions as Cranston residents reached a milestone on Thursday after it was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill, S 2286, should get a vote on the Senate floor in the near future before heading to the House for final approval.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in a release praised the bill's approval before the judiciary committee, saying it's a "tremendous step forward in upholding the principle of 'one person one vote' and restoring equal representation for all Rhode Island voters."

The ACLU on behalf of a group of Cranston residents  sued Cranston in February over the city's 2012 redistricting plan, alleging that the counting of ACI inmates as Cranstonians inflated the population count in Ward 6 since the inmates make up 15 percent of the ward's population.

The result gives Ward 6 extra voting power through what is referred to as "prison-based gerrymandering," leaving every other ward with less influence. The ALCU said that 85 residents of Ward 6 wielded the same voting influence as 100 in any other district.

The ACLU said the "overwhelming majority" of inmates are not true residents of Ward 6 and remain residents of their pre-incarcaration community for "virtually all legal purposes, including voting." The City Council was warned by ACLU lawyers that they could be in violation of the one person-one vote principle during the redistricting process in 2012.

Enter Sen. Harold Metts, who submitted the bill this legislative session. It would require prisoners to be counted as living at their most recent home address as it applies to the drawing of voting districts. 

"Because of our small size and presence of only one prison location in the state, Rhode Island has been called the worst example of prison-based gerrymandering in the country," Hillary Davis, ACLU of Rhode Island policy associate, said.

To view the full text of the bill, click "download .PDF" to grab it. 

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