39 national organizations submitted a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging it not to slash the Census Bureau's budget allocation.

by Leah Sakala, July 13, 2011

Congress has proposed a drastic cut to the Census Bureau’s budget that threatens current and future operations. The Prison Policy Initiative, along with 38 other national organizations, submitted a joint letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging the Committee members to reconsider their recommendation to slash the Census Bureau’s budget allocation.

Our letter states:

We believe the Subcommittee’s recommendation of $855.4 million, which is 25 percent below the Census Bureau’s FY 2011 spending level, puts vital data collection programs in jeopardy and will cripple the agency’s ability to achieve significant savings in the future through innovative methods and greater use of technology.

The proposed budget cut could compromise the Bureau’s capacity to implement programs such as the 2012 Quinquennial Economic Census (required by the Census Act), force the Bureau to abandon early planning work for the 2020 Census, or eliminate the Bureau’s ability to release follow-up data for the 2010 Census, such as the Count Question Resolution program or overcount and undercount estimates.

While the Senate Appropriations Committee is understandably looking for places to conserve federal resources, the cost of stunting the Census Bureau’s ability to deliver the data that our democracy depends on is simply too steep.

Not surprising that LATFOR fails to defend the law in court, since it's actually ignoring the law when drawing new districts for New York State.

by Aleks Kajstura, July 13, 2011

Capitol Confidential (a Times Union blog) points out that, in the lawsuit to bring prison-based gerrymandering back to New York, one of the defendants is not actually defending the law.

The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) is responsible for redistricting in New York, but “hasn’t exactly been vigorous in defending itself in a lawsuit filed about the issue…”

This makes perfect sense: LATFOR is co-chaired by Assemblyman Jack McEneny, D-Albany and Sen. Mike Nozzolio, R-Seneca County. Nozzolio has expressed doubts about the legality of a 2010 law that directed LATFOR to count prison inmates at their last home address instead of at their jail cells. Counting inmates in jail has been derided as prison-based gerrymandering, and inflates population in upstate, rural, largely Republican areas at the expense of downstate, urban, largely Democratic precincts.

Several of Nozzolio’s Republican colleagues in the Senate, including Betty Little of Queensbury, are plaintiffs in the suit. LATFOR is so-far ignoring the new law, which is causing groups like the NAACP to cry foul.

John Marion of Common Cause Rhode Island wrote a blog post about Rhode Island redistricting history, warning of the consequences of gerrymandering.

by Leah Sakala, July 12, 2011

John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island, wrote a great blog post today about redistricting and reapportionment in Rhode Island.

He explains that prior to the Reapportionment Revolution of the 1960s:

Rhode Island was at the head of the class when it came to malapportionment […]. As Scott McKay wrote in a retrospective piece about Rhode Island political history, a century ago, “The foundation of Republican control in the state rested on perhaps the most malapportioned General Assembly in America: Providence, with 30,000 voters, had one senator, as did Little Compton, which once elected a state senator with 78 votes.”

The result was that 7.5% of Rhode Island’s population once controlled the legislature. That would be like having just the senators from Cranston controlling an entire legislative chamber.

Rhode Island has made significant progress towards fair redistricting since then, but there is one reapportionment controversy left:

[P]risoners – yes, prisoners. A movement is afoot to count prisoners at their last known address rather than where they are incarcerated. In fact, according the Prison Policy Initiative, Rhode Island has the most malapportioned state legislative districts in the nation because its ACI is located on one campus.

Will Rhode Island use prison populations to pad the legislative districts that contains prisons to the detriment of every other district in the state? That will be decided this summer, and John Marion argues that unless the voters demand a change very soon, the legislature will proceed with business as usual.

For more on the movement to end prison-based gerrymandering in Rhode Island, see our campaign page.

California bill AB 420 has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and will now move to the Senate Floor

by Leah Sakala, July 12, 2011

California is one step closer to ending prison-based gerrymandering!

California bill AB 420, sponsored by Assembly Member Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles), has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee with a vote of 5-3. The bill will now move to the Senate Floor for a vote of the full body.

Albany Times Union published an editorial criticizing LATFOR for ignoring law to end prison-based gerrymandering.

by Leah Sakala, July 11, 2011

thumbnail of articleThe Albany Times Union has had enough of unfair redistricting in New York.

Yesterday the Times Union published an editorial that criticizes the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR)’s decision to count incarcerated populations in the wrong place during the redistricting process:

[I]f there was any pretense left that [redistricting] was going to be an honest process, the task force threw it away in declaring that it will ignore a law requiring state prison inmates to be counted for redistricting purposes where their homes are, not where they’re incarcerated and have no representative to speak of.

Some lawmakers have sued to bring prison-based gerrymandering back to New York, but the Times Union points out that the task force needs to follow New York’s enacted law that requires incarcerated people to be counted at home, not in prison.

We've released a new video to support the campaign to end prison-based gerrymandering in Massachusetts.

by Peter Wagner, July 11, 2011

We’ve released a new video to support the campaign to end prison-based gerrymandering in Massachusetts:

The script:

How Massachusetts can avoid prison-based gerrymandering

Every decade after the Census, states redraw their legislative districts in order to grant equal representation to equal numbers of people. Unfortunately, states rely on census counts that have a serious flaw.

Continue reading →

Connecticut can avoid prison-based gerrymandering when drawing districts-- Peter Wagner testifies in Connecticut Reapportionment hearing.

by Leah Sakala, July 11, 2011

testimony thumbnailConnecticut can avoid prison-based gerrymandering when drawing districts, said Peter Wagner last week at the Connecticut Reapportionment Committee Public Hearing in the Waterbury City Hall. In his testimony, he presented two different ways that the Connecticut legislature can avoid prison-based gerrymandering as they begin their redistricting process.

CT-N has the video of the testimony. Peter’s part runs from 30:45 to 39:27. You can see Common Cause’s testimony earlier in the video, and State Rep. Larry Butler’s testimony in support of prison-based gerrymandering reform is at the end of the video.

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