Alaska Republican Party Chairman calls for end to prison-based gerrymandering

Ending prison-based gerrymandering would be good for rural Native populations, says Republican Party Chairman.

by Peter Wagner, March 24, 2011

The Chairman of the Alaska Republican Party has called on the state to end prison-based gerrymandering:

Randy Ruedrich, chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, addressed the board via telephone, asking that the board assign Alaskan prisoners incarcerated within and outside of Alaska to their home addresses for the purpose of building new legislative districts.

Ruedrich noted in a letter to John Torgerson, board chairman, that the Census Bureau had made a decision to provide prison population data to states for the redrawing of 2011 legislative boundaries.

“This data will allow the board to work with census data that places each Alaskan prisoner in his or her home instead of their prison location for drawing new legislative districts,” Ruedrich said. “This should also increase the state population, since the out of state prison populations will be similarly assigned to their respective home addresses.”

Native policy board, others, will keep close eye on redistricting, by Margaret Bauman, Bristol Bay Times, March 16, 2011

The effort, before the Republican-dominated Redistricting Board, has so far been unsuccessful:

The board spent much of Wednesday afternoon discussing and setting the meeting schedule. But it also took up a request by Ruedrich to reallocate the prison population to their residence addresses. Now inmates are counted in the district in which they are incarcerated.

Ruedrich told the board there is a disproportionate number of Alaska Native prisoners in the system — 35 percent compared to a Native population generally of 15 percent. He suggested many of those people are from rural Alaska so counting them in their home towns and villages would help fill out lagging numbers in rural districts.

The board didn’t act on the request and said it would be too difficult in such a short time to get the residence addresses for thousands of inmates and try to work them into the appropriate district. The board’s attorney, Michael White, also wondered whether it was legal for the board to do it or if a change had to come through the Legislature.

Alaska redistricting board gets to work, by Patti Epler, Alaska Dispatch March 16, 2011

2 responses:

  1. Sharon Brownlee says:

    When we take men who should be working in society and lock them up for crimes they commit, we say okay to most who have broken the law depending on the crime. Why is it the state which house prison’s benefit when it come to counting prisoners I’m referring to the United States Census.

    Communities and cities which need funding loose it by this practice. Originally, these men reside in there last known address unless serving life sentence.

    These men, incarcerated men work for state prisons which are more like slave labor. Do they even earn hours toward social security?

    1. Peter Wagner says:

      The Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison location because that made sense 200 years ago. That’s long before incarceration become so common or that the data was used for redistricting. Hopefully the Census Bureau will change how they count incarcerated people before the next Census. Until then, we need state-based and county-based solutions like those enacted in Maryland, Delaware and New York, plus those proposed in Alaska and other states.

      Please know, however, that the Census Bureau’s prison miscount has very little effect on funding. Most government aid formulas are far too sophisticated to be fooled by where prisoners are counted. The impact on redistricting is both far larger and a lot easier to fix.

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