Prisoner (Inmate) Gerrymandering for congressional seat
The reason the compromise was written into the Constitution was to incentivize the South to adopt the Constitution. Because population drives the number of congressional representatives and the tax apportionment, slave states wanted their slaves counted as part of the population.
When the usual residence rule is applied to prisoners, it may dilute the strength of urban voters in favor of rural ones.
5 As is the case with resident aliens, prisoners (in all but two states) cannot vote.
6 “[P]risons are disproportionately built in rural areas but most incarcerated people call urban areas home,” so counting prisoners where they usually reside leads to “a systematic transfer of population and political clout from urban to rural areas.”
7 Because they rely on the data the Census provides, most states have counted prisoners where they are incarcerated. However, Delaware, Maryland, and New York have recently passed laws to count prisoners in their home districts, and other states have eliminated local “prison-based gerrymandering.”
8 Moreover, the Census Bureau for the first time has released Advance Group Quarters data that makes available the number of prisoners in each census block, facilitating state and local government efforts to remove prisoners from their calculations when redistricting should they choose to do so.
9 This led Nathaniel Persily to ask if a jurisdiction would not violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) for failing to subtract prisoners “[n]ow that the Bureau is making it easier for states to do so;” but he also acknowledges that reallocating prisoners to their home
communities for purposes of districting may have the “perverse effect” of counting them where they may not have lived for years and may never return.10
Resolution prepared for an urban county in California calling on the state to eliminate prison-based gerrymandering
Resolution prepared for Jackson Mississippi calling on the state to eliminate prison-based gerrymandering
Although technically not a resolution, Essex County Local Law Number 1 of 2003 offers a detailed declaration of why a rural county would not want to consider prison populations a part of their community or their electoral system.Prison-Based Gerrymandering
The total number of European immigrants to all 13 colonies before 1775 was about 500,000; of these 55,000 were involuntary prisoners. (A separate 300,000 were enslaved Africans.) Of the 450,000 or so European arrivals who came voluntarily, Tomlins estimates that 48% were indentured. About 75% were under the age of 25. The age of adulthood for men was 24 years (not 21); those over 24 generally came on contracts lasting about 3 years. Regarding the children who came, Gary Nash reports that, “many of the servants were actually nephews, nieces, cousins and children of friends of emigrating Englishmen, who paid their passage in return for their labor once in America.”
Over the last several decades, the percentage of Americans incarcerated in prisons has increased four-fold. Incarcerated persons are often held in areas that are geographically and demographically far removed from their home communities. For instance, although non-metropolitan counties contain only 20% of the national population, they host 60% of new prisons.