Fixing prison-based gerrymandering after the 2010 Census: Wyoming

50 State Guide, March 2010

Prison-based gerrymandering violates the constitutional principle of "One Person, One Vote." The Supreme Court requires districts to be based on equal population in order to give each resident the same access to government. But a longstanding flaw in the Census counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison location, even though they can’t vote and aren’t a part of the surrounding community.

When legislators claim people incarcerated in their districts are legitimate constituents, they award people who live close to the prison more of a say in government than everybody else.

Wyoming law says a prison cell is not a residence:

  • “(A) Residence is the place where a person has a current habitation and to which, whenever he is absent, he has the intention of returning;

    “(B) A person shall not gain or lose residence merely by reason of his presence or absence while… [k]ept at a hospital or other institution.”

    (Wyoming Annotated Statutes §22-1-102(a)(xxx).)

Solutions:

  • Ideally, the U.S. Census Bureau would change where it counts incarcerated people. They should be counted as residents of their home — not prison — addresses. There is no time for that in 2010, but Wyoming should ask the Census Bureau for this change for 2020.
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