Are some votes worth twice as much as yours?
by Peter Wagner, February 8, 2011
The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that:
Sumter [County, Florida] officials say it’s likely they will use inmate-population figures from the 2010 Census to reapportion County Commission districts.
By my calculation, if Sumter County puts the newly expanded Coleman federal prison complex into the same district, they will be drawing a district that has more incarcerated people than local residents. This will give the voters in the district with the prison more than twice the influence of voters in other districts.
Over the past two months, I’ve been writing letters to county commissioners around the country, urging them to address prison-based gerrymandering. As part of that effort, we’ve also written fact sheets about prison-based gerrymandering in California counties, Florida counties, Georgia counties, Iowa cities and counties, Ohio cities, and Texas counties.
That consciousness-raising effort is bearing fruit, as can be seen in the final paragraphs of the same Orlando Sentinel article:
Bradford County in north central Florida — home to three state-prison facilities including Florida State Prison, where many death-row inmates are housed — also factors in close to 5,000 inmates in figuring its County Commission districts. According to 2009 U.S. Census estimates, Bradford’s population was 29,230.
Not everyone in that county agrees with counting prisoners.
Bradford County Commissioner Doyle Thomas said he plans to voice his objections when the panel discusses redrawing district lines in the coming months.
“I don’t think that’s right, because they [inmates] don’t vote and they don’t use services,” he said. “I’m going to say something about it.”