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Madison, Ind. should seize opportunity to end prison-based gerrymandering

by Leah Sakala, October 1, 2012  

Will the the City of Madison, Indiana follow in Terre Haute’s footsteps to avoid prison-based gerrymandering?

The Madison Courier recently reported that Madison City redistricting is underway, and one of the questions facing City Council members is how to handle the state prison population at the Madison Correctional Facility. If the city uses unadjusted Census Bureau data as the basis for the new district lines, more than a quarter of one of the districts will be made up of the prison population. Counting incarcerated people as if they were residents of the prison location contradicts both Indiana state law’s definition of residence and common sense. Failing to adjust the census data would give every three people in the district with the prison as much political clout as four people in any other district, just because of where they happen to live.

Fortunately, as the residents of Terre Haute know, there is a simple solution: take the prison population out of the census data that is used to draw the new districts. The Census Bureau publishes special tables for that express purpose, and more than 150 local governments around the country, including Terre Haute, use this solution.

The Madison City Council has everything it needs to prevent the correctional facility from distorting the new city district lines. Now, it’s time for the Council to act.

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