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Independent redistricting—Rhode Island has suffered from political gerrymandering for centuries. Looking toward the 2020 Census, Common Cause wants to end the practice of incumbent politicians picking their voters. We will achieve this by putting an amendment to the Rhode Island Constitution on the ballot to create an independent redistricting commission. The commission, modeled after a successful effort in California, will control the post-Census redistricting process and abide by the Voting Rights Act, and new standards enacted in our state constitution.
Early voting—Rhode Island has made great gains in modernizing our elections in recent years. Online voter registration, automatic voter registration, and risk-limiting post-election audits have all been enacted. The last piece of the agenda is in-person early voting. Rhode Island still lags behind the majority of states that allow citizens to vote in the weeks prior to Election Day. This legislation, introduced by the Secretary of State, will allow for 20 days of early voting including limited weekends hours. It will increase access to the polls for working Rhode Islanders and lessen the strain on election administrators from the explosive growth in the use of mail ballots.
Magistrate reform—Common Cause Rhode Island proposes putting magistrates under our merit selection system. When Rhode Islanders amended our constitution in 1994 to create merit selection of judges there were only a handful of judicial officers known as magistrates in the court system. Two decades later there are almost two dozen magistrates. These judicial officers, who possess many of the same powers as judges in Rhode Island, are selected through an opaque process that is subject to political manipulation. We propose using the Judicial Nominating Commission to recruit and vet a diverse pool of candidates, with the final selection being made by the governor with advice and consent from the state Senate.