Massachusetts plans to diminish distortion caused by prison-based gerrymandering

by Leah Sakala, October 14, 2011  

This redistricting cycle it looks like Massachusetts is taking action to lessen the distortion caused by prison-based gerrymandering.

An article published in yesterday’s Bay State Banner reports that members of a coalition of Massachusetts organizations are calling on the Massachusetts Redistricting Committee to address the problem of prison-based gerrymandering:

….members of the coalition are calling on the Redistricting Committee to not count prison populations in the drawing of districts, a practice they say artificially inflates the voting clout of suburban and rural districts that have prisons.

While a clause in the Massachusetts Constitution prevents the Committee from changing the way incarcerated people are counted for the current round of redistricting, House Redistricting Committee Chairman Mike Moran noted that the Committee can use allowable deviations from the deal district size to lessen the distorting effects of prison-based gerrymandering:

Moran noted that the U.S. Census counts prisoners in the census tracts where they’re incarcerated. But he added that, although the Legislature is required to draw districts that are of equal size, they have leeway to deviate from that standard by up to five percent.

Where there is a prison, you would keep it on the negative side and where there is not, you would keep it on the positive side,” Moran said.

Here’s a video we released that explains why this fix is a step in the right direction for Massachusetts democracy:

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