Delaware Becomes 2nd State to End Prison-Based Gerrymandering

Last week, Delaware became the second state in the country to pass legislation that would adjust US Census data to count incarcerated people as residents of their home addresses for redistricting purposes.  It is awaiting Gov. Jack Markell’s signature.

The Census currently counts incarcerated people as residents of their prison location, artificially inflating the local population.  As states use census tallies to redraw legislative districts, districts with a prison benefit from the resulting increased representation, while the home districts of incarcerated persons are short-changed.  Twelve percent of one state house district in Texas is comprised of prisoners, while fiftteen percent of one Montana state house district consists of prisoners.

Prison-based gerrymandering is increasingly becoming a problem — the 2010 Census is expected to find five times as many people in prison as it did just three decades ago.  Fortunately, states are moving to correct the problem.  Maryland enacted the first law (SB 400/HB 496) to count incarcerated persons at their home address in April, and similar legislation is pending in New York.

Prison Policy Initiative - Delaware Passes Law to Count Incarcerated Persons at their Home Addresses for Redistricting
Demos - Maryland Enacts Law to Count Incarcerated People at Their Home Addresses
Delaware - HB 384
Maryland - The “No Representation Without Population Act,” SB 400/HB 496