Voting Rights Issues the ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News

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Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years

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Voting Rights

In a democratic society, the right to vote is an essential aspect of liberty, and the ACLU of Rhode Island has been vigilant in challenging government efforts to limit or impede the exercise of that right. Additionally, the ACLU has fought attempts to restrict the ability of people to run for office, as it not only directly impairs the rights of candidates, but also impacts the rights of voters to make their choices known. To learn more about protecting your right to vote, click on the resources on the right.

Problems voting? Call the ACLU of RI at (401) 831-7171, or click here for our VOTING RIGHTS COMPLAINT FORM.

Voting Rights in the News

  • Mar, 26, 2020: Voting Rights Groups Urge Steps to Protect Right to Vote During Mail Ballot Primary
  • Oct, 09, 2017: Statement on Alleged “Loophole” in Voter ID Rules
  • Jul, 07, 2017: Statement in Response to the Request from the “President’s Commission on Election Integrity”

View All Voting Rights Related News Releases »

Voting Rights Court Cases

2014: Davidson v. City of Cranston
Category: Voting Rights    

This is a federal lawsuit challenging the redistricting plan adopted by the City of Cranston in 2012 for its City Counciland School Committee.  The lawsuit charges that the redistricting plan violates the one person, one vote principle of the U.S. Constitution by counting incarcerated people in their prison location as if they were all residents of Cranston. Because those incarcerated were counted as Cranston residents, three voters in the prison's district have as much voting power as four voters in every other city district.

In May 2016, a federal judge agreed with the ACLU and ordered the City of Cranston to redraw their voting lines within 30 days. In September 2016, a federal appeals court disagreed.

RELATED: The ACLU's Washington Legislative Office submitted comments to the Census Bureau on the 2020 Census Residence Rule supporting the counting of incarcerated people at their home address. The comments cite our lawsuit here in Rhode Island as well the ACLU's work in other states. 

Supporting Documents
2009: Montiero v. City of East Providence
Category: Due Process    Rights of Candidates    

Federal lawsuit challenging City Charter provisions that impose increased signature-gathering burdens, above and beyond what state law requires, on candidates who wish to run for local office. The provisions were repealed, and attorneys’ fees were awarded.

Cooperating Attorney: Angel Taveras

Supporting Documents

Voting Rights Legislation

Prison Gerrymandering (H 7140) Held for Further Study
Category: 2020    Voting Rights    

When it comes to drawing new voting districts, any individuals incarcerated at the ACI in Cranston on the day the Census worker comes through are recorded as living on Howard Avenue at the prison, including individuals awaiting trial or serving misdemeanor sentences who are still allowed to vote, but only from their home addresses. As a result, Cranston is overrepresented in the General Assembly, while the districts from where the prisoners hail are underrepresented (approximately 15% of House District 20 is comprised of voters who cannot vote in Cranston). The ACLU again supported this legislation, sponsored by Representative Anastasia Williams, to rectify this disparity and require all prisoners to be counted, for redistricting purposes only, at their last known address.

Legislative Redistricting (H 7260, S 2077) Held for Further Study
Category: 2020    Voting Rights    

H 7260 and S 2077, introduced by Representative Jason Knight and Senator Dawn Euer, respectively, would establish an independent redistricting commission in order to ensure that Rhode Island’s legislative districts are not impacted by partisan gerrymandering. We supported this legislation, with some amendments, because such a commission would better ensure fairly proportioned districts, the ability for voters to choose their legislators – rather than the other way around – and provide a critical transparency to the redistricting process.