Calif. Assembly passes bill to improve law ending prison-based gerrymandering

Calif. Assembly passes bill improving law ending prison-based gerrymandering: includes federal prison populations and increases data precision.

by Aleks Kajstura, May 9, 2012

California’s historic law ending prison-based gerrymandering is about to get even better. The California Assembly just passed a bill (AB 1986), that improves California’s law ending prison based gerrymandering, passed as AB 420 last summer.

Last summer, AB 420 (now Section 21003 of the Elections Code) presented a uniform state-wide solution to California’s problem of prison-based gerrymandering, making California the fourth state to end the practice. AB 420 aimed to prepare the State to count incarcerated people at home for redistricting purposes after the 2020 Census, and AB 1986 proposes to make improvements to the law based on New York and Maryland’s implementation of their laws ending prison-based gerrymandering.

AB 1986 extends AB 420 to apply to prison populations in federal prisons. AB 420 only provided for the collection of home addresses of people incarcerated in state prisons.

AB 1986 also increases the precision in the required data. Currently the redistricting data is only requested to be adjusted by zip code, but the new bill expressly references Census blocks, which are the smallest geographic unit used by the Census Bureau. Switching to Census blocks creates more precision while also creating greater compatibility with the Census Bureau’s redistricting data sets.

Lastly, AB 1986 puts greater privacy protections in place. It requests that the Commission not publish the home addresses of incarcerated people, but only the final population data aggregated to Census blocks.

A full bill analysis is available from the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting. AB 1986 is now up for committee assignment in the Senate.

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