This bill is an example of an important interim solution to the Census Bureau's prison miscount and prison-based gerrymandering: require that prison populations be ignored when drawing legislative districts. Ideally, the U.S. Census Bureau would count incarcerated people at home, or a state would have a procedure in place to count incarcerated people at their home addresses for state and local redistricting purposes. But where that is not possible, prohibiting districts from using prison populations to unfairly increase their influence achieves almost the same result.
It often sounds counter-intuitive that deleting urban and minority men from the Census would improve electoral representation. However, the majority of the harm from prison based gerrymandering comes from crediting large numbers of incarcerated people to districts where they do not reside.
—Peter Wagner, 2009
This bill provides for adjusting population data used in redistricting to conform to the Oregon Constitution. The Census Bureau counts incarcerated persons as if they were residents of their places of incarceration rather than of their home addresses. Article IV of Section 4, however, states that for “the purpose of voting, no person shall be deemed to have gained, or lost a residence… while confined in any public prison.”
Section 1. The legislature notes that section 4 of article IV of the Oregon constitution provides in pertinent part as follows: “For the purpose of voting, no person shall be deemed to have gained, or lost a residence… while confined in any public prison.” Investigation has shown that, despite these provisions, the Census classifies incarcerated persons as residents of their places of incarceration rather than of their home addresses. The provisions of this act are necessary to provide procedures and duties to correct this discrepancy.
Section 2. The election law is amended by adding a new section 188.020 to read as follows:
1. For so long as the Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the census block in which the facility in which they are incarcerated is located, all apportionment and redistricting of state or county and municipal legislative districts shall exclude all persons incarcerated in federal, state, and private prisons. The provisions of this section shall apply only to, and the information obtained pursuant to this section shall be used in, the creation of, state legislative districts for the house and senate, and all county and municipal legislative body districts.
2. Not later than the next May first following the date on which the block-level population counts for this state from the federal decennial census are released by the Census Bureau of the United States, the Secretary of State shall prepare and disseminate adjusted population counts for each geographic unit included in the Census count by excluding from the population totals all persons incarcerated in federal, state, and private prisons.
3. Upon the completion of the information required pursuant to this section, the Secretary of State shall promptly make a report thereof available to the Legislative Assembly, all county and municipal legislative bodies, and the public. Legislative Assembly shall utilize such information in the creation of assembly, and senate districts. All county and municipal legislative bodies shall utilize such information in the creation of county or municipal legislative body districts.