By: Peter Quinn
It would probably surprise most Americans that tiny Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state by area, has been afforded at least two members of the House of Representatives since the 1790s. The census reapportionment process has been very kind to the state as of late, resulting in the state retaining its current two seats for the last ten censuses, losing a third seat during the Great Depression. This is especially stark when compared to Delaware, with only about 100,000 fewer people than Rhode Island but bereft of multiple Representatives throughout its history other than from 1813-23.
In the run-up to the 2020 Census, however, Rhode Islanders began to worry that their population growth was not keeping pace with other states, or at least not enough to guarantee the continued existence of its second seat. With the state controlled by Democrats, including the holders of both House seats, a potentially ugly fight was brewing that would determine who would become the standard-bearer when the two districts consolidated.