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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Changes coming to Charlestown’s electoral map

The new 2010 Census numbers show Charlestown’s population declined by 0.4% even though South County led the rest of RI in population growth.

One of the consequences of the census is that C-Town’s legislative map will need to be re-drawn. Every 10 years, after every census, political maps must be changed to more or less equalize the number of voters in each district.

Two House of Representatives districts cover Charlestown – District 36 which is represented by Donna Walsh and District 39, represented by freshman Democrat Larry Valencia. (see map). Both districts cover a lot of territory and several towns. Donna’s district includes the most populated parts of Charlestown.

According to the new census numbers, Donna’s District 36 is now 936 people below the average population size per district in Rhode Island. However, all of the districts that touch District 36 have excess population. Larry Valencia’s District 39 is +683. Sam Azzinaro’s District 37 in Westerly is +410. Spencer Dickinson’s District 35 in South Kingstown is +694. Finally, there’s District 38 in Hopkinton, represented by Brian Patrick Kennedy which has 953 more people than the average House district.

In order for Donna’s District 36 to be brought into legal population balance, some territory will need to be carved off of one or more of the neighboring districts. One simple “fix” would be to move the District 36 boundary north to take in that part of Charlestown that is in District 39 (Larry Valencia).

The downside to that fix is Charlestown would then no longer have two members of the House of Reps as its champions. Plus, Larry is a solid, promising new member of the House. On the other hand, Donna is our hometown hero.

On the Senate side, Charlestown also has two Senators representing it – Republican minority leader Dennis Algiere in District 34, centered in Westerly and Francis Maher (R) representing District 38. Immediately to the east of Charlestown is Senate District 37, represented by Sue Sosnowski (D).

These districts will also have to be re-drawn. All three have substantial population surpluses, ranging from nearly 4000 for Sue Sosnowski to just over 1000 for Dennis Algiere.

Because South County’s population grew greater than the rest of the state, the challenge for the map-makers will be to figure out how shrink South County Senate districts and put more people into under-populated northern RI districts. Good luck with that!