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Census & Prison Gerrymandering

2019 Supreme Court coverage was focused on the Trump administration’s failed efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 national census. The Supreme Court court held that the government intended to redistrict the census, so that it would result in “a disadvantage to the Democrats” and be “advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic Whites.”

What was overlooked, was a major defeat for democracy by the Census Bureau. The Census policy of counting incarcerated persons, where they are imprisoned, ( not where previously lived), would continue. This was crucial, since prisons are usually located in white, rural districts ( often Republican). By counting prison populations for voting purposes, by prison location, you artificially inflated political power of the districts, which had prisons, within their boundaries.

Studies have shown, transfers of the majority of two million inmates to prisons in rural areas, thereby bloating the population numbers for declining rural counties. The end result–distorted census numbers giving partisan advantage to the party in control of the state legislature. The United States census, by population, calculates the number of Congressional Representatives, sent by each state.

 Most inmates in state prison, return home after their release, which means that their actual place of residence is not correctly shown in the census. Despite the Supreme court’s ruling, New York, Maryland, California, Delaware, and Washington passed laws to end prison-based gerrymandering. Since the Supreme Court has declined to change the present census policy of prison gerrymandering, democracy can only depend on the efforts of states, trying to achieve fair voting for all.

Posted by Bradley Schwartz
Founder of PrisonPath.com

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