On the campaign trail: Lima, Ohio

While President Obama is hoping for a victory in Ohio on Tuesday, Lima residents have already won a democratic victory of their own over the problem of prison-based gerrymandering.

by Leah Sakala, November 2, 2012

City of Lima redistricting plan excluding the prison

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been keeping close tabs recently on the presidential candidates’ travel itineraries. As they jet around the country to drum up votes in Tuesday’s election, they keep making campaign stops in cities and counties where prison-based gerrymandering presents a major democratic challenge.

This afternoon, President Obama will be speaking to a crowd of voters in Lima, Ohio. While the president is hoping for a victory in Ohio on Tuesday, Lima residents have already won a democratic victory of their own over the problem of prison-based gerrymandering. For more than two decades, officials in the City of Lima have refused to pad their city wards with the populations of the two state prisons located within city limits.

As Board of Elections Director Keith Cunningham explained, the decision to exclude incarceration populations makes sense because “prisoners have no communications, no voting rights, and are not a constituency.” If city officials had not adjusted the 2010 Census data by removing the prison populations for redistricting purposes, about half of the population in Ward 1 would have been made up of people in the state prisons. By avoiding prison-based gerrymandering, the city ensured that the actual residents of Ward 1 were not granted twice the voting power of any resident in the other six districts.

So, although Obama may not mention prison-based gerrymandering this afternoon, the City of Lima has a strong history of maintaining a healthy democracy. And on Tuesday, Lima voters will have the opportunity to exercise it again.

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