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Baltimore’s AFRO covers US Supreme Court’s stand against prison-based gerrymandering

by Leah Sakala, July 5, 2012  

The AFRO recently published a great piece by Maria Morales about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to uphold Maryland’s law ending prison-based gerrymandering.

The article reports that the ruling in Fletcher v. Lamone was a major victory for the civil rights community. As Ajmel Quereshi of the Howard University Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic points out, the practice of prison-based gerrymandering was,

one of the discriminatory ways laws impact the minority community not only at the front end with the disproportionate number of incarcerated African Americans, but it affects inner-city minority communities on the back end with redistricting.

The article also explains that relying on unadjusted Census Bureau redistricting data can stymie efforts to create effective majority-minority districts. Somerset County is one of the clearest examples, where counting the disproportionately African American prison population within the country split the real African American population between two different districts. With the African American voters too dispersed between districts to elect the candidate of their choice, not once in the county’s history had an African American been elected to office. Now that incarcerated people are counted at their home addresses for redistricting purposes, Marylanders can draw districts that more accurately reflect the communities they contain.

The article points out that the Supreme Court’s decision bodes well for efforts to end prison-based gerrymandering in other states. Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, and New Jersey may be the next states to pass similar legislation. With the endorsement of the highest court in the nation, Maryland is leading the way!

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