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Prison gerrymandering gives extra political power to legislators who have prisons in their districts. We put numbers on the problem and sparked a movement to protect our democratic process from the overgrown prison system.

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Valley Advocate: Lawmakers look at fixing Massachusetts’ “representation without population” problem

Western Massachusetts newspaper reports that state lawmakers are looking for ways to end prison-based gerrymandering.

by Peter Wagner, July 27, 2012

thumbnailMassachusetts is headed in the right direction towards ending prison-based gerrymandering, reports a new feature in the Valley Advocate.

“The way the Census Bureau counts people in prison creates significant problems for democracy and for our nation’s future,” in the words of the Prison Policy Initiative, a think tank based in Easthampton. This “prison-based gerrymandering,” PPI says, “leads to a dramatic distortion of representation at local and state levels, and creates an inaccurate picture of community populations for research and planning purposes.”

PPI and other groups have been pushing to change that system for years, and it appears they now have some powerful allies on their side—among them, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), the Senate’s president pro tempore and co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Redistricting. “The whole point of redistricting and the whole point of our system is, we all have equal representation,” Rosenberg told the Advocate. By counting incarcerated people who, by law, are not able to vote in the districts where they’re locked up, he explains, “you are creating disproportionate voting power in those districts among those people who are eligible to vote.” In light of that inequity, Rosenberg said, it just makes sense for the census to change the way it counts prisoners.

Read the rest of the great article on newsstands throughout Western Massachusetts this week or on the Valley Advocate’s website: Prisoners Count: Lawmakers look at fixing Massachusetts’ “representation without population” problem.

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