On the Campaign Trail: Marion, Ohio

What would candidates say about how they plan to take action on the problem of prison-based gerrymandering?

by Leah Sakala, October 26, 2012

Map showing Marion City, Ohio

With election day less than two weeks away, candidates are ramping up the effort to get out the vote in swing states like Ohio. Earlier this week, vice president Joe Biden made a stop in the city of Marion, Ohio to rally support among Marion voters.

But while all residents of Marion can play an important role in the outcome of the national elections, some voters have almost four times the political clout of others in city elections. Why? Because it’s one of the most dramatic examples of prison-based gerrymandering in the country.

When officials in the City of Marion started redistricting after the 2010 Census, they already had a prison-based gerrymandering problem. Two city wards were padded with state prison population, giving an unfair 30% boost to the votes cast by residents in those districts.

But rather than remedy the problem in the most recent round of redistricting, it got worse when both prisons were placed in the very same ward. Today, nearly three-fourths of the population in Ward 1 is made up of people in the state prison, giving one resident in that ward the same access to local government as 4 people in any other ward.

I wonder what Vice President Biden would have said if a Marion resident at the rally had asked him how his administration plans to protect her vote from being diluted due to the Census Bureau’s prison count?

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