New Report: Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Montana

by Peter Wagner, November 14, 2004  

I’ve posted a new report showing how the Census Bureau’s method of counting prisoners as residents of the rural areas that host prisons skews the democratic process in Montana.

The report identifies one district, House District 85 that counts among its census population 1,308 incarcerated people. The District is 14.5% prisoners, a higher figure than in any other state legislative district yet discovered in the United States. Prisoners can’t vote in Montana, and on their release they will be returning to their home communities, but their presence at the prison town in the Census dilutes the votes of their family members back home. Every group of 85 residents in District 85 gets as much of a say over state affairs as 100 people in elsewhere in the state. The Supreme Court’s ‘One Person One Vote’ rule was supposed to eliminate such large difference in voting power.