Fixing prison-based gerrymandering after the 2010 Census: Kansas

50 State Guide, March 2010

Impact at the state level
Impact at the local level
Kansas law says a prison cell is not a residence
Additional resources

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.

Impact at the state level:

  • "Former Kansas Rep. Candy Ruff long credited the inmates inside the prison walls in her district as the foundation of her 16-year political career.

    "When Kansas decided to include those inside prison cells in the state population counts, it meant redrawing a very different map for House districts.

    "Her 40th District in the Leavenworth area suddenly had a new dimension, about 3,000 souls, although they can't be considered as normal constituents.

    "Yes, they can write angry letters with the best of them, but they can't vote."

    --Mary Sanchez, Counting prisoners is an issue for us all, The Kansas City Star, Feb 17, 2010

  • After the 2000 Census, District 40 had:
    Facility Population
    United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth 508
    Leavenworth Detention Center 320
    Lansing Correctional 1,719
    Lansing East 605
    Total 3,152
  • Wyandotte County (Kansas City) is home for 5.5% of Kansas, but more than 10% of the state's prisoners are from the County.

Impact at the local level:

  • The city of Lansing did not include the prison population when drawing its city council wards after the 2000 Census. Otherwise, the two Lansing Correctional facilities would have been a district all by themselves, with no possibility of representation. Alternatively, the facilities could have been split between districts, but the larger facility would have been 72% of a district, giving every resident of that district 4 times the influence of every other resident in the city. The city of Lansing rightly decided that this would not be fair.
  • More research needs to be done, especially in the cities of Leavenworth, and in the counties of Norton, Ellsworth, and Leavenworth. (These communities contain large prisons relative to their actual population.) Not all of these counties updated their districts after the 2000 Census. Unless the prison populations are removed from the redistricting base after the 2010 Census, these communities will have one or more districts that are significantly padded with non-resident prison populations. See the Democracy Toolkit for a suggested research methodology.

Kansas law says a prison cell is not a residence:

  • Kansas law has provisions for conducting its own state Census with a special requirement to count incarcerated people at home. Although Kansas has since added a section to its laws to adjust the federal Census to create the population data upon which redistricting is based, the older provisions which explicitly state that being incarcerated does not change your residence remain a part of Kansas law. The general principle that a prison is not a residence remains consistent with the principles underlying the new statute, but the new statute neglected to include prison populations on the list of groups in need of address adjustment.
    • For the purpose of determining residence:

      "...(f) the residence of persons living in state hospitals and state benevolent and correctional institutions shall be the place such persons resided before entering the hospital or institution unless such residence has been abandoned and new legal residence established at the time of such enumeration...."

      (Kansas Statutes §11-205.)


  • 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 Kansas should ask the Census Bureau for this change for 2020.
  • After the 2010 Census, the state and its local governments should, to the degree possible, count incarcerated people as residents of their home communities for redistricting purposes. Where that is not feasible, incarcerated people should be treated as providing unknown addresses instead of being used to pad the legislative districts that contain prisons.

Additional resources:

Stay Informed

Get the latest updates:

Share on 𝕏 Donate