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Fear of “unwieldy” rural districts in Florida should not have led to dilution of one person one vote principle

by Peter Wagner, January 26, 2004

The entire 7th state representative district [in Florida] … has nine prisons or work camps and 8,443 inmates — better than 5 percent of its total population.

“We worked hard to get these facilities here in our district,” said Bev Kilmer, the Republican who represents the county in the Florida House….

Kilmer thinks it’s fair to count the prisoners as population. Her district already stretches across four complete counties and parts of four more, and without the inmates, she said, it would grow even more ungainly….

The constitution requires political districts to be drawn so that each contains the same number of people. Kilmer is right that under-populated rural districts are geographically large and therefore more difficult for legislators to travel from one end to another to meet constituents. But skewing Census results is not the solution. Providing rural legislators with a travel stipend would be superior to using imported prisoners to dilute the principle of one person one vote.

Quotation source: Jonathan Tilove, Minority Prison Inmates Skew Local Populations as States Redistrict Newhouse News Service, March 12, 2002.

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