RELEASE: In Rhode Island, Partisan Gerrymandering Negatively Affects Legislative Accountability and Fair Representation

Washington, D.C. — To account for changes in population, the principle of “one person, one vote” requires states to redraw their election districts every 10 years. In some states, legislators can manipulate district boundaries to benefit their own political party, engaging in extreme partisan gerrymandering. Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case in which a group of voters—represented by the Campaign Legal Center—are challenging maps drawn in Wisconsin. The case will determine whether these maps were drawn unconstitutionally to benefit one political party over another.

While Wisconsin is currently at the center of this fight, it is just one of several states where partisan gerrymandering is particularly acute. Extreme partisan gerrymandering weakens voters’ ability to affect election outcomes and exercise accountability over government, negatively affecting the responsiveness of legislators and crippling fair representation. Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing, Center for American Progress experts Liz Kennedy and Billy Corriher have prepared state-specific fact sheets on states with some of the most extreme examples of partisan gerrymandering and its consequences: WisconsinMichiganNorth CarolinaOhioRhode Island, and Virginia.

“Gerrymandering leads to less competitive elections, and this means legislators don’t have to worry about what voters think. Democracy is about voters being able to influence their elected officials, but gerrymandering makes it harder for voters to make their voice heard,” said Billy Corriher, deputy director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the fact sheets.

In Rhode Island, Democrats controlled both houses during the 2010 redistricting cycle. Republicans won 35 percent of the statewide General Assembly vote in the 2016 election but came away with only 13 percent of seats. The Rhode Island Legislature is disregarding voters’ expressed policy preferences on some important issues. As in other gerrymandered states, the Legislature passed a law prohibiting local increases in the minimum wage. More than two-thirds of Rhode Island voters support a $15 per hour minimum wage, according to a recent poll. In 2016, the Legislature passed a law that increased tolls on trucks, even though the vast majority of voters polled preferred an alternative Republican proposal.

“The bottom line is that extreme partisan gerrymandering discriminates against targeted voters by locking them out of achieving representational power. This prevents progress on solutions that majorities of voters support, such as a higher minimum wage and expanded Medicaid programs,” said Liz Kennedy, director of Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the fact sheets. “In Gill v. Whitford, the Supreme Court has to stand up for the right to fair representation in our democracy and set limits on partisan gerrymandering to prevent these continuing abuses.”

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For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6258.