Cicilline
DAVID CICILLINE

Cicilline's mistruths about the capital city's fiscal condition are old news by now. But the Congressman gets a big ol' turkey for Rhode Island's most blatant bit of gerrymandering in memory.

Anticipating a tough re-election fight, Cicilline engineered a shuffling of 75000 voters between his district and that of Congressman James Langevin when a simple shift of 7200 would have sufficed to even the populations.

Among the changes: Cicilline dropped conservative Burrillville from his district and added liberal south Providence.

The blatant manipulation of the political process is turkey-worthy, by itself. But it also made Rhode Island party to a much bigger problem: rampant gerrymandering across the country has created ever-safer seats for Democrats and Republicans alike, depriving our democracy of a vital measure of debate and competition.

Joseph_Delorenzo_main
JOSEPH A. DELORENZO, JR.

Joseph A. DeLorenzo, Jr., who served as chairman of the Cranston Board of Canvassers until his recent resignation, gets a turkey for his high-profile push to deny an absentee ballot to Michael Woodmansee.

Woodmansee is, undoubtedly, a loathsome character. He famously killed five-year-old Jason Foreman in 1975 and shellacked the boy's bones. And after serving 28 years in prison, he agreed to be confined to the state's mental institution at Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston.

But DeLorenzo, a bare-knuckled publicity hound, had no legal ground for denying the man a ballot. And he knew it.

Just a couple of years prior, he attempted to do the same to two other residents of Eleanor Slater, William Sarmento and John A. Sarro, both found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity some 30 years ago.

DeLorenzo and the board based their Sarmento and Sarro denials on a provision of the state constitution that reads "no person who has been lawfully adjudicated to be non compos mentis shall be permitted to vote."

The board found that the men had been declared "non compos mentis," Latin for "not master of one's mind," when the courts found them not guilty of murder by reason of insanity. And because biennial evaluations of the men had not resulted in their release from the state mental hospital, the board found, the ruling stood.

But national and local advocates for the disabled said the not guilt by reason of insanity findings dated to specific acts decades ago, and said nothing about the men's ability to evaluate candidates and cast ballots. The twice-a-year reviews, likewise, had no bearing on their competence to vote.

And while the nation's laws are a mish-mash when it comes to mental illness and voting, the country as a whole is moving away from blanket restrictions on the rights of the mentally ill and toward case-by-case evaluations of individuals' competence to perform specific tasks: maintaining a bank account, owning a weapon, or casting a ballot.

DeLorenzo knew all this. And he went ahead anyway. Thankfully the state's Board of Elections stepped in and order him to sign off on the ballot, resign, or face criminal charges.

DeLorenzo flew the coop.

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