Vigo County Indiana redistricting case implicates prison gerrymandering

by Aleks Kajstura, March 6, 2013

A Vigo County resident, with the help of the ACLU of Indiana, recently filed a lawsuit to force the county to reapportion their voting districts. Population shifts in the two decades since the county last redistricted result in significant population differences between the districts. One of the population changes in Vigo County is the expansion of the federal prison complex, but regardless the districts need to be redrawn. I’m following the suit because if the prison population is included in the new districts one district could be 13% incarcerated, giving this district extra influence while diluting the vote of anyone living in any other district.

When Vigo County takes up redistricting to fulfill the constitutional mandate of “one person, one vote” the county should ensure that the federal prison population doesn’t undermine their efforts. Currently 3,251 of the people in District 4 are actually people incarcerated at the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex. The people reported by the census at the correctional complex cannot vote and are not legal residents of the prison (and likely not even residents of Indiana) so by including them in redistricting data the county would effectively maintain malapportioned districts.

When looking for a solution to the prison-count problem, Vigo county could follow the example of its county seat, Terre Haute. When Terre Haute redistricted last year, it avoided prison gerrymandering by excluding the very same incarcerated population reported at the Federal Correctional Complex.

What will Vigo County do? Stay tuned.

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  • May 15, 2018:
    Our Policy Analyst Lucius Couloute will be at the LEDA Summit on Race and Inclusion in Holland, Michigan, presenting his research on the challenges and disadvantages people face when they are released from prison. Tickets are available on LEDA’s website.

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