Published in The Nation, December 29, 2003, p. 2
Your cover story on felon disenfranchisement misses a technical detail. People in prison cannot vote, but they still count for purposes of political apportionment. Peter Wagner's review of New York (www.prisonersofthecensus.org) reveals ten State Assembly districts with 2-5 percent of the population in prison. My quick analysis of Texas shows that approximately 12 percent of the population of House District 13 lives behind bars and is prohibited from voting for or against the person who nominally represents them in the state legislature. Thus, prisons do more than just lock (too many) people up. They transfer voting power from urban, minority, typically Democratic districts to rural districts with very different characteristics. The simplest solution is for the Census to allow people in prison to provide their "usual residence" rather than assign them the institution's address.