On November 3, Rhode Island voters will decide a constitutional amendment that would change the state’s official name from “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” to “Rhode Island.”
On July 16, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed the amendment. It was approved by the state Senate on June 18. The amendment would also remove “Providence Plantations” from state references in the preamble, Article III (Oath of Officers), and Article IX (Commissions).
The amendment was introduced by State Senator Harold Metts (D) on June 17, 2020. The state Senate approved the amendment with a unanimous vote. The amendment was sponsored in the state House by Democratic Representatives Anastasia Williams, Joseph Almeida, Joseph Solomon, Karen Alzate, and Raymond Hull. The state House passed the amendment in a vote of 69-1 with five members not voting.
In support of the name change, Senator Metts said, “Rhode Island built its economy on being a leader in the slave trade in colonial times. This old, festering wound still needs healing. We aren’t proud of that history, and we must stop glorifying a word that is inescapably associated with that terrible past.”
In 2010, 77.9% of Rhode Island voters defeated a similar measure, which was also sponsored by Senator Metts (D).
On June 22, Governor Gina Raimondo (D) signed an executive order to remove “Providence Plantations” from all official legislative and executive branch documents.
The amendment is the first certified measure for the November ballot in Rhode Island. The number of measures appearing on statewide general election ballots between 1995 and 2018 ranged from two to 14 and totaled 75. Of that total, 82.67 percent (62 of 75) of statewide ballots were approved by voters, and 17.33 percent (13 of 75) were defeated.