Edward Fitzpatrick: R.I’s new House speaker has a captive constituency

Some people are grousing about how most of Rhode Island doesn’t get to vote for the House speaker, though he’s considered the state’s most powerful politician.

But lawmakers elect their leaders in Congress and other state legislatures. So there’s nothing unusual about the fact that new Democratic House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello now wields more power than if he were simply representing part of Cranston.

But there is one unusual thing about Mattiello’s House district: 8.6 percent of the people in his district are inmates at the Adult Correctional Institutions, and the vast majority of those inmates can’t vote for or against him, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, based in Easthampton, Mass.

“It’s representation without population,” said the group’s legal director, Aleks Kajstura. “Counting incarcerated people as if they were residents of the ACI undermines the principle of one person, one vote.