Vigo County settles lawsuit, avoids prison gerrymandering
by Aleks Kajstura, April 10, 2013
Vigo County Indiana is following the lead of its county seat by ending prison gerrymandering. The Tribune Star reports that the Commissioners of Vigo County will approve a redistricting plan that excludes the incarcerated population at the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex.
Redistricting is generally required every decade to ensure that the residents are equally divided among the County Council districts, but Vigo County failed to redistrict for two decades. By the 2010 Census the districts had significant population differences. The County was finally pushed to taking action in response to a suit filed by a local resident with the help of the ACLU of Indiana.
In taking this opportunity to redistrict, the County also addressed its prison gerrymandering problem. The incarcerated population counted at the federal prison complex would have made up 13% of District 4 if it had been included in the redistricting data, undermining the County’s attempt to draw fair districts with equal populations.
County Attorney Michael Wright explained the County’s solution:
“Once we declare that we are not considering the federal penitentiary’s population for purposes of calculation, the proposed plan would bring the precincts with one and a third percent of each other in terms of population.”
When the districts are finalized by an upcoming Council vote, Vigo County will join the Indiana cities of Terre Haute and Crown Point as well as over 200 other local governments nationwide in ensuring equal representation by avoiding prison gerrymandering.