Prisoners can’t vote, but will cost Mass. town extra funds for elections
by Peter Wagner, April 12, 2011
Lynne Klaft reports in the Worcester Telegram that an increase in the prison population in the town of Lancaster Massachusetts is going to require creating a new election precinct for them, even though they can’t vote.
In Massachusetts, precincts are administrative units that determine where you vote, and Chapter 54 Section 6 of the Massachusetts General Laws defines certain maximum sizes for the precincts. In general, precincts can not have more than 4,000 people living in them. The 2,406 people incarcerated in two prisons put the town population at 8,055, or 55 people over the threshold for having two precincts.
Unless the law is quickly changed, the town must create a third precinct, hire more poll workers, purchase more equipment and other expenses. Our work to end prison-based gerrymandering focuses on the drawing of election districts like those in Gardner, not the impact of laws that regulate how crowded a precinct should be. But the story, New precinct needed for nonvoting population, is yet another interesting example of how the Census Bureau’s decision to count incarcerated people as residents of the prison location creates additional burdens on the electoral systems and processes of the localities that host correctional facilities.