State of Elections

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Tag: Rhode Island

Big commission for a small state

Q&A with John Marion of Common Cause on Redistricting in Rhode Island

1. Can you describe the work the Special Commission on Reapportionment has done?

“They’ve met, six times so far. Going around the state, taking testimony from people concerning what the map should look like. But the Commission has not publicly presented any maps. Starting next week it is expected that they will present three or more sets of maps and take them around the state seeking input from the public. They are required by law to choose a plan which is a set of maps and then the legislature has to vote.”

2. What could the Commission do to improve the quality of elections for Rhode Islanders?

“They could continue to do what they seem to be doing, which is taking public input. Besides the public hearings the Commission is allowing members of the public to use the computers that will be used to do the redistricting and draw their own maps and submit them.”

“The Commission should also be publicly debating and trying to rank the criteria that they plan to use and consider when drawing the plans. There are many different legal criteria that must be satisfied but also political criteria that may be taken into account including political competiveness considerations.”

3. What about the process by which the Commission was picked? Continue reading

Politics and pictures: Rhode Island and its new voter ID law

In elections past, Rhode Island has not required photo identification for a ballot to be counted. However, with the passage of a new law the state has at least superficially joined the ranks of states which have approved legislation that will hamper the voting rights of its most vulnerable citizens. Yet the truth may not be so simple. Rhode Island’s law is less restrictive and more benign than legislation passed by other states which may explain the unique politics behind the passage of RI’s new photo identification bill.

The law will be implemented in two stages. “The first stage will require non-photo ID beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The second stage will require photo ID beginning Jan. 1, 2014.”

For the upcoming 2012 election, voters are able to vote by establishing their identity through possession of forms of ID that do not have their photo, “including without limitation”: a birth certificate, social security card, or government-issued medical card. The language “without limitation” can reasonably be construed as meaning that “any current photo identification that includes the name and photograph of the voter will be accepted.” Continue reading

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