On February 14, 2014, the ACLU of Rhode Island and several citizens of the City of Cranston filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The plaintiffs sued the City of Cranston under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by the Prison Policy Initiative, ...
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On February 14, 2014, the ACLU of Rhode Island and several citizens of the City of Cranston filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The plaintiffs sued the City of Cranston under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by the Prison Policy Initiative, the ACLU, and private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief. The plaintiffs claim that the 2012 Redistricting Plan violated the rights of the plaintiffs to equal representation under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that the inclusion of the prison population of Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI), located in Ward 6, inflated the actual voting population of ward 6. As a result, every three citizens of Ward 6 represent the same voting power as four citizens of the other five wards.
On March 13, 2014, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss. On September 8, 2014, Judge Ronald R. Lagueux denied the motion, holding that the court could not say that the 2012 Redistricting Plan was constitutional as a matter of law. 42 F.Supp. 3d 325 (D.R.I. 2014). The court scheduled discovery for the next nine months.
On July 9, 2015, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. On August 6, 2016, a cross motion for summary judgment was filed by the plaintiffs.
On May 24, 2016, Judge Lagueux granted plaintiffs’ summary judgment and denied defendants'. The court entered declaratory judgment for the plaintiffs and enjoined the defendants from holding any new elections under the current 2012 Redistricting Plan. Furthermore, the defendants were required to come up with a new redistricting plan within 30 days. Judge Lagueux determined that while districts are generally divided according to equal populations, the prison inmates at ACI were not engaged in the civil process like other non-voters. Therefore, to include them in the total population of Ward 6 would an unconstitutional dilution of Ward’s 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5’s voting power.
On May 31, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to appeal. On September 21, 2016, Judge Sandra Lea Lynch of the First Circuit Court of Appeals entered judgment in favor of the defendants. Judge Lynch held, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Evenwel v. Abbott, that in the absence of discriminatory intent, the courts should defer to local election authorities and the political process. Brent Winslow - 09/28/2016