Calif. bill to improve law ending prison-based gerrymandering awaits governor’s signature
by Aleks Kajstura, August 23, 2012
California’s historic law ending prison-based gerrymandering is about to get even better. The California Senate just passed a bill (AB 1986), that improves California’s law ending prison based gerrymandering.
Last summer, AB 420 (now Section 21003 of the Elections Code) presented a uniform state-wide solution to California’s problem of prison-based gerrymandering, making California the fourth state to end the practice. AB 420 prepared the State to count incarcerated people at home for redistricting purposes after the 2020 Census, and AB 1986 will make improvements to the law based on New York and Maryland’s implementation of their laws ending prison-based gerrymandering.
AB 1986 extends AB 420 to apply to prison populations in federal prisons. (AB 420 only provided for the collection of home addresses of people incarcerated in state prisons.)
AB 1986 also increases the precision in the required data. Currently the redistricting data is only requested to be adjusted by zip code, but the new bill expressly references Census blocks, which are the smallest geographic unit used by the Census Bureau. Switching to Census blocks creates more precision while also creating greater compatibility with the Census Bureau’s redistricting data sets.
Lastly, AB 1986 puts greater privacy protections in place. It requests that the Commission not publish the home addresses of incarcerated people, but only the final population data aggregated to Census blocks.
AB 1986, like AB 420, does not affect the distribution of state or federal funds. For more details, see the full bill analysis available from the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting. AB 1986 is now headed to the Governor to be signed into law!