June 30, 2010

A Line from the Town to the State

Justin Katz

On my wish list of general changes to Rhode Island government structure is bringing state representation more directly in line with voter residence. I've argued that legislators would thereby be more accessible and that such a system would create a more direct line for involved residents to move up the ladder of governance — moving from local committees, to town councils, to state senator. State Senate candidate Dawson Hodges adds some fuel to the fire:

So long as Rhode Island maintains home rule for its municipalities, a more prudent constitutional reform might be to reapportion the Senate to one seat for each city and town. Senators representing cities and towns would give municipal governments, which are responsible for the bulk of government expenditures and services, a voice in the State House.

Municipality-based Senate representation would also restore some influence to those well managed cities and towns whose residents shoulder a disproportionate share of Rhode Island's tax burden.

Of course, I might as well have added "imaginary" before "wish list," above, because gerrymandering is one of the mechanisms that keeps the old guard in power.

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I suggested this a while back on this site and Andrew (Morse) responded that it was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.

The reason is that representatives (small r) may not have different sized constituencies, regardless of the fact that it happens at the federal level. States may not do it. That is what Andrew responded to my comment with.

Otherwise, I agree with it completely, which along the same lines, I don't understand the need for bicameral government if we're *not* going to run the Senate as described above.

Posted by: Patrick at June 30, 2010 11:03 AM

The case is Reynolds v. Sims, from 1964.

Posted by: Andrew at June 30, 2010 1:57 PM

Prior to these Supreme Court cases, many states were apportioned in that fashion.

Posted by: James Kabala at July 1, 2010 5:51 PM
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