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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.

One Response

  1. Madison, Ind. should seize opportunity to end prison-based gerrymandering | Prisoners of the Census says, 4 months, 2 weeks after publication:

    […] special tables for that express purpose, and more than 150 local governments around the country, including Terre Haute, use this […]

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  • December 22, 2014:
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  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.

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  • December 22, 2014:
    Peter Wagner will be on Bill Newman’s show on WHMP at 9:18am to talk about the fight for prison phone justice in Western Mass and nationwide.
  • February 20, 2015:
    Executive Director Peter Wagner, Board Member Amanda Alexander and Advisory Board Member Bruce Reilly will present on a panel entitled “The fight against mass incarceration: Combining litigation and policy work for systemic change” at RebLaw at Yale Law School from 3-4:30pm.

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