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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.

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Fixing prison-based gerrymandering after the 2010 Census: Delaware

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.

Legislation (as of October 2010):

  • Delaware passed a law to collect the home addresses of incarcerated people, and to require the state to draw legislature districts on the basis of Census Bureau data corrected to count incarcerated people at their home addresses. The bill to end prison-based gerrymandering, House Bill 384, was sponsored by Rep. Helene Keeley, with additional sponsors Rep. J. Johnson, Rep. D.P. Williams & Sen. Henry and cosponsors Reps. Barbieri, Brady, Hudson, Mitchell, and Sens. Marshall, McDowell. Indeed, although Senator Henry represents a legislative district that contains a prison currently counted as part of her district, she and other legislators recognized that the issue of fairness and accuracy in statewide redistricting should take precedence over individual concerns.

Additional resources:

  • Delaware resource page has fact sheets and more information about Delaware's new law ending prison-based gerrymandering.
  • A list of new large prisons built in Delaware 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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