Sample Census-adjustment resolution for Jackson, Mississippi City Council

WHEREAS, obtaining an accurate count of the population is so vital to representative democracy that the framers of the United States Constitution addressed the issue of the census and apportionment in the opening paragraphs of this governing document; and

WHEREAS, the Supreme Court of the United States requires state and local government to redraw legislative districts each decade on the basis of population, so as to ensure each resident the same access to government; and

WHEREAS, the United States Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the census block that contains the prison, but Mississippi law declares that confinement in a correctional facility does not change a person's domicile (Mississippi Code § 47-1-63); and

WHEREAS, in 2002, the Attorney General stated that incarcerated people "are not deemed 'residents' of that county or locality [where the prison is located], as incarceration cannot be viewed as a voluntary abandonment of residency in one locale in favor of residency in the facility or jail." (MS AG. Op. #02-0060, Johnson, Feb 22., 2002); and

WHEREAS, Mississippi state law prohibits people incarcerated in state prisons from voting, and even if they could vote, state law would require them to vote back at home via absentee ballot; and

WHEREAS, basing legislative districts on Census Bureau data that counts incarcerated people in the wrong place serves to enhance the voting power of the districts that contain prisons; and

WHEREAS, vote enhancement in districts that contain prisons dilutes the votes cast by residents in all other districts that do not contain prisons; and

WHEREAS, despite the encouragement of the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Census Bureau's own advisors on the National Research Council to count incarcerated people as residents of their home addresses, the Bureau is again counting incarcerated people in the wrong place in 2010; and

WHEREAS, the Mississippi Attorney General stated that "[f]or purposes of the Census, these [incarcerated] individuals should have been counted in their actual place of residence. Such inmates should not be used in determining the population of county supervisor districts for redistricting purposes by virtue of their temporary presence in a detention facility or jail in the county, unless their actual place of residence is also in the county." (MS AG. Op. #02-0060, Johnson, Feb 22., 2002); and

WHEREAS, the State of Mississippi fails to provide a comprehensive solution providing the state and all local governments with the necessary data to apportion legislative districts based on actual population; and

WHEREAS, the City Council wishes to eliminate from the state the distasteful practice that has come to be known as "prison-based gerrymandering"; and

WHEREAS, the Maryland and Delaware state legislatures both passed bills this year prohibiting prison-based gerrymandering in their states, requiring redistricting data to reflect incarcerated persons' home addresses; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the state of Mississippi should pass legislation requiring that Census data be adjusted to reflect actual populations when used for redistricting purposes, ending the practice of prison-based gerrymandering within Mississippi's borders.

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