Thursday, December 22, 2011

NYT editorial celebrates victory against prison-based gerrymandering

Prisoners of the Census news
for the week of December 22

The 2010 Census counted more than
2 million people in the wrong place.
How will your vote suffer?

Thanks to you!

As today's New York Times editorial shows (below), we are continuing to make great progress against prison-based gerrymandering. Four states have passed laws ending the practice, and the first legal challenge to these civil rights victories has been dismissed.

Your support has helped to make these victories possible. You know how important the work of the Prison Policy Initiative is to the movement. We need your help to defend our victories, expand to other states and, finally, to convince the Census Bureau that the fairest and most accurate way to count incarcerated people is at home.

Can you make a tax deductible contribution to support our work today?


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Prisons and Redistricting

By the New York Times editorial board
Published December 22, 2011

A New York State court rightly upheld a state law requiring that prison inmates be counted in their home communities rather than where they are incarcerated. The law, passed in 2010, put an end to prison-based gerrymandering, which counted nonvoting prison inmates as “residents” to increase the population of some legislative districts. That practice artificially inflated the political power of voting residents in prison districts and diluted the voting strength of voters elsewhere.

Under state law, inmates are denied the right to vote and cannot participate in the political processes of the communities where the prisons are located. Their voting rights are automatically restored when their sentences are completed and most return to their home communities, far from the prison towns.

Many counties with large prisons within their borders have rejected the practice of counting inmates as “residents” when they saw how doing so allowed lightly populated towns near prisons to hijack a disproportionate share of political power while diminishing the power of towns that did not have prisons.

Legislators from upstate districts who challenged the law are well aware of what goes on at the county level. But they were desperate to hold on to a process that apportions political power based not on real constituents but on sleight of hand.

In his ruling, Justice Eugene Devine of the State Supreme Court said the plaintiffs had failed to show that the state law was “anything other than rationally based and constitutionally sound.” The plaintiffs, who are appealing, harm the political process by fighting a law that ensures fairer representation.

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In this issue
Thanks to you!
Prisons and Redistricting

Other news
Virginia bill would help counties avoid prison-based gerrymandering

HB13 will give any county faced with drawing a district that would be more than 12% incarcerated the option of choosing to not include the prison populations when redistricting.

Baltimore Sun op-ed supports Maryland’s No Representation Without Population act

Great op-ed explains how Maryland's law ending prison-based gerrymandering protects minority voting power.

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