A Methodological Note on Electoral Sources
PROVIDENCE'S ELECTION RETURNS INCLUDE NO ETHNIC BREAKDOWN for the years examined in this study. Public opinion polls that may shed some light on how Italian Americans cast their ballots are also unavailable for those decades. Furthermore it is, of course, impossible to know how individuals actually voted. Central to this book is, therefore, a sample of the city's Italian-American electorate.
Voting districts, which represent what are called voting precincts in other cities and correspond to the area whose residents cast their ballots at the same polling station, are the smallest aggregate units for which Providence reported election statistics. The analysis of the election returns for the voting districts is, therefore, the best and most viable way of approaching the level of individual behavior. A sample of the Italian-American electorate has been arranged on the basis of the assumption that the election returns for the voting districts with a high concentration of Italian Americans are representative of the vote of Providence's Italian-American community.
Three major different layouts of Providence's voting districts characterized the years of this study. The number of the city's wards increased from ten to thirteen and the boundaries of their voting districts consequently underwent notable revisions prior to the 1930 elections. Another major redrawing took shape immediately after the 1938 elections. Moreover a number of minor changes in the lines of the voting districts occasionally occurred in the intervening years in order to reflect the movements of the population. The lines of the voting districts before the 1930 redrawing are described in the Providence City Manual for 1920, while maps for the years 1930 and 1940 are held in the Rhode Island State Archives. Minor boundary changes in the voting districts were noted in the Providence Journal as the city's daily advised its readers on the location of polling places as Election Day was drawing near. In ad-