SB 753 – An Act Concerning the Counting of Incarcerated Persons for Purposes of Determining Legislative Districts.
NAACP and ACLU Applaud Historic Senate Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Abolish Prison Gerrymandering. The House must now act to finally end this unjust and discriminatory practice.
In Connecticut, the U.S. Census Bureau counts incarcerated people where they are confined not where they are from. Using these counts to draw state and local legislative districts enhances the weight of a vote cast by people who live near prisons at the expense of everyone else in the state or county.
Scot X. Esdaile, President of the NAACP-Connecticut Conference, explained:
As a result, residents of Connecticut’s predominantly white, rural districts — where most of the state’s prisons are concentrated — have greater representation in the Connecticut legislature than black and brown residents of urban districts.
To take one troubling example, a New Haven resident’s vote for state offices in the 2020 election will count for only 85% of the vote of a resident in Enfield or Somers. Why? Because for every 85 residents of House District 59 (Enflield), there are over 100 in House District 97 (New Haven).
People should not be counted as residents of the community in which they are incarcerated because they do not decide where they will be imprisoned.
Mass incarceration, combined with disenfranchisement laws, subverts participatory democracy, particularly for communities of color. Such communities should not be subjected to the modern version of the three-fifths rule, where their votes count less than others’.
Sample Letter of Support for Senate Bill No. 753 - Counting of Incarcerated Persons, aka Prison Gerrymandering
Dear [Senator or Representative’s name],
My name is [Your Name] and I live in [Address, Town]. I support Senate Bill No. 753 passed by the senate on May 5, 2021, because it is designed to restore fairness to the process of counting incarcerated people. The current counting method distorts the population of towns that house these people and diminishes representation in the towns where these incarcerated people had lived, where their families live, and where they might return to live. This bill, An Act Concerning the Counting of Incarcerated Persons for Purposes of Determining Legislative Districts, is needed to correct this injustice.
In Connecticut, most prisoners are from cities with large black and Hispanic populations, but they are housed in facilities that are mostly white and more rural areas. Their hometowns essentially have less influence in state affairs since they are no longer counted in these locations. After state officials redrew voting maps using 2010 census numbers counting prisoners where they’re imprisoned, they created a redistricting plan that inflated the voting strength of districts of mostly white voters and “violated the 14th Amendment’s ‘one person, one vote’ principle, which requires districts to have about the same number of people in them.” (“‘Your Body Being Used’: Where Prisoners Who Can’t Vote Fill Voting Districts,” NPR Radio, December 31, 2019).
It is time for the house to now act to ensure that incarcerated people are counted where they had lived, where their families live, and where they might return to live.