LA Daily News op-ed: Prison census bill would get redistricting right next time

by Leah Sakala, August 23, 2011  

This morning the Los Angeles Daily News published a great op-ed by Peter Wagner, executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative, and Dale Ho, assistant counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, in support of California’s Assembly Bill 420 to end prison-based gerrymandering.

After providing a detailed overview about how prison-based gerrymandering distorts our democracy and “makes a mockery of the ‘one person, one vote’ principle,” the authors explain that the California Senate should pass AB 420 to make sure that prison-based gerrymandering doesn’t mar California redistricting next time around:

It is too late to solve this problem during the current redistricting cycle, which requires that new maps be finalized shortly. But legislation is currently headed to the State Senate floor that would make sure that prison-based gerrymandering does not continue to distort our democratic process during future redistricting cycles: Assembly Bill 420, sponsored by Assemblymember Mike Davis, which calls on the Citizens Redistricting Commission to allocate incarcerated individuals to their home communities during future redistricting cycles.

This legislation will not affect funding for federal or state programs; it simply seeks to ensure that our legislators each represent the same number of constituents, so that everyone is represented equally in the political process.

Corrective legislation in California, the nation’s largest and arguably most important state, would not only solve this problem here, it could pave the road for nationwide change. The Senate should pass AB 420, and take a stand for basic principles of fairness and equality in the redistricting process.

The California Senate is scheduled to vote on AB 420 this week.

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