Tribune-Star editorial board is glad to see the end of prison-based gerrymandering in Terre Haute, Ind.
by Leah Sakala, May 17, 2012
I’ve been writing a lot about Terre Haute, Indiana lately. Most recently, I shared a Tribune-Star article with the good news that the city recently joined the majority of counties and municipalities with large prisons when city councilors unanimously decided to abolish prison-based gerrymandering.
Yesterday, the Tribune-Star released a strong editorial praising the city’s decision to not allow the Census Bureau’s prison miscount to distort local democracy:
The one-person, one-vote concept is the bedrock of the constitutionally guided U.S. electoral process. The council’s unanimous vote to leave the penitentiary population out of the district division formula solidifies Terre Haute’s compliance with the promise of equal access to government representation under the U.S. Constitution.
This is a perfect example of how the media plays a huge role in the movement to abolish prison-based gerrymandering. After we corresponded back and forth with Tribune-Star columnist Mark Bennett, he wrote a 2010 column that put prison-based gerrymandering on the public’s radar and triggered a community-wide discussion about how to solve the problem. Since then, Tribune-Star journalists such as Arthur Foulkes and Howard Greninger have kept the public informed as city officials deliberated on how to keep prison counts from compromising city residents’ right to vote.
And yesterday’s Tribune-Star editorial rightfully affirms that the city took a step in the right direction by abolishing prison-based gerrymandering.
The editorial implies that the U.S. Constitution requires the Census Bureau to count incarcerated people as residents of the prison, leaving the cities like Terre Haute to find their own solutions. Actually, the U.S. Constitution is silent on the question, and hopefully the Census Bureau will end this problem nationwide in 2020. But right now, the only way Terre Haute could avoid prison-based gerrymandering was to take action on its own.
As the editorial explains, “One-person, one-vote should not just be a concept; it should be reality.” And in cities like Terre Haute, with the support of publications like the Tribune-Star, “one-person, one-vote” will now be a reality.