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Prison gerrymandering gives extra political power to legislators who have prisons in their districts. We put numbers on the problem and sparked a movement to protect our democratic process from the overgrown prison system.

Can you help us continue the fight? All gifts made this year will be automatically matched by other donors. Thank you.

Peter Wagner, Executive DirectorDonate

Fixing prison-based gerrymandering after the 2010 Census: Alaska

50 State Guide, March 2010

Prison-based gerrymandering violates the constitutional principle of "One Person, One Vote." The Supreme Court requires districts to be based on equal population in order to give each resident the same access to government. But a longstanding flaw in the Census counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison location, even though they can’t vote and aren’t a part of the surrounding community.

When legislators claim people incarcerated in their districts are legitimate constituents, they award people who live close to the prison more of a say in government than everybody else.

Alaska law says a prison cell is not a residence:

  • For the purpose of determining residence for voting, the place of residence is governed by the following rules:

    (1) A person may not be considered to have gained a residence solely by reason of presence nor may a person lose it solely by reason of absence ... while in an institution or asylum at public expense, while confined in public prison....

    (2) The residence of a person is that place in which the person's habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever absent, the person has the intention to return....

    (3) A change of residence is made only by the act of removal joined with the intent to remain in another place. There can only be one residence.

    (4) A person does not lose residence if the person leaves home and goes to another country, state, or place in this state for temporary purposes only and with the intent of returning.

    (5) A person does not gain residence in any place to which the person comes without the present intention to establish a permanent dwelling at that place....

    (Alaska Statutes § 15.05.020.)

Solutions:

  • Ideally, the U.S. Census Bureau would change where it counts incarcerated people. They should be counted as residents of their home — not prison — addresses. There is no time for that in 2010, but Alaska should ask the Census Bureau for this change for 2020.

Additional resources:

  • A list of new large prisons built in Alaska since the 2000 Census. These prisons are likely to create new prison-based gerrymandering problems after their populations are counted in the 2010 census.
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