Lasting effects of prison-based gerrymandering in Maryland

by Aleks Kajstura, July 22, 2010

WYPR reports on how the people incarcerated at the Eastern Correctional Institute in Maryland’s Somerset County are used to skew the democratic process in the county and in the state. Although Maryland already passed a law that will require districts to be based on actual, not prison, populations, the districts currently remain as they were drawn many years ago.

No grand plot has been plot has been alleged. But somehow a 33-hundred inmate prison was built in the middle of a five-thousand-person district that was created through a 1986 legal settlement to boost prospects for a black candidate. And it may just be a coincidence that remaining the African-American population in the district is mostly made up of UMES students, who typically don’t vote in county elections, either.

In any case, no local action been taken to correct the imbalance that has allowed the First District seat to be held for 20 years by James Ring, an elderly white man who benefited from a shrunken electorate that musters fewer than 500 total votes.

Maryland was the first state to pass a law to require incarcerated people to be counted at their actual home addresses for redistricting purposes. The WYPR story focuses on the elections that will be held before that change takes place.

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