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RI panel recommends redistricting proposal

By David Klepper
Associated Press / December 19, 2011
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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—A plan to redraw Rhode Island's two Congressional districts by shifting some Republican-heavy neighborhoods out of U.S. Rep. David Cicilline's district won the endorsement of a state redistricting commission Monday.

The proposal would move voters in Burrillville in Cicilline's district into the district now represented by Rep. Jim Langevin. Cicilline's district would absorb additional voters in Providence. Both men are Democrats.

The state Commission on Reapportionment endorsed the plan 11-6 on Monday night, following weeks of meetings on various proposals.

Final approval of any changes to the political boundaries will be up to state lawmakers, who plan to begin their review of the proposal next month. Officials want the new political districts in place before the November 2012 elections.

Supporters of the plan say it would give minority voters a louder voice by increasing their numbers in Cicilline's district. But Republican critics say several proposals to tweak the state's two congressional districts seem crafted to help Cicilline's re-election efforts.

Under the plan, Cicilline's district would swap some neighborhoods with larger percentages of Republican voters for more Democratic areas. Earlier plans would have gone much further, moving more than 100,000 voters from one district to another.

"This is a good compromise," said state Rep. Stephen Ucci, D-Johnston and commission co-chairman.

Commission member and state Rep. Joseph Trillo, R-Warwick, voted against the proposal Monday, telling The Associated Press that it seemed designed to benefit Cicilline. He noted that the new plan moves many more voters than necessary to account for population shifts in the past decade.

"We're strengthening David Cicilline," he said. "All we had to do is move 7,200 voters, and instead we're moving 75,000. Do you think it's intentional? I do."

Attempts to reach Cicilline spokeswoman Nicole Kayner were unsuccessful Monday night. When asked last week about the redistricting proposal, Kayner said, "We recognize it is the commission's responsibility to draw the district lines, and we believe they are doing so responsibly."

In October, Langevin and Cicilline sent a joint letter to the redistricting commission urging the panel to "cause the least amount of disruption in our respective districts."

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