Although some states have already finished the redistricting process, many are still hard at work.
Earlier this year, the Prison Policy Initiative released a new set of factsheets on prison-based gerrymandering. The factsheets highlight how the practice is disenfranchising minority voters nationwide, particularly African-Americans, Latinos, and American Indians.
Prison-based gerrymandering starts with where the Census counts prison populations. While some states require prisoners to be counted at their last know address, others are counted at their prison address, bolstering population in a district where they are (usually) not eligible to vote. Thus, the majority of a district’s “residents” can be locked away, giving extra weight to the votes of those living there by choice, while simultaneously reducing the population and influence of prisoners’ home districts.
Luckily, some states are beginning to tackle this problem. After voting to end the practice, the New York state legislature has stepped up to enforce the decision. The term “prison-based gerrymandering” was added to the state’s 2011 redistricting glossary, one of the state Senate’s stated goals is to end prison-based gerrymandering, and special consideration was given to how prisoners would be counted at their “homes of record.”
Prison-based gerrymandering is also being addressed on a smaller scale. Earlier this year LaSalle Parish in Louisiana redistricted their local government and School Board, but only after deducting the number of prisoners in the parish’s two prisons. LaSalle is one of over 100 local governments across the country that proactively address the issue of prison-based gerrymandering.
Is prison-based gerrymandering a problem in your community?