“Putting the con in constituent”: prison gerrymandering in Florida

"There’s nothing a state rep loves more than a captive audience. Except for a captive constituency."

by Leah Sakala, September 30, 2013

Yesterday’s Miami Herald ran a great column by Fred Grimm on why it’s time for Florida to do away with prison gerrymandering. The column begins:

There’s nothing a state rep loves more than a captive audience. Except for a captive constituency.

North Florida pols have packed their state House districts with a particularly low-maintenance category of citizens. The kind who don’t show up at townhall meetings clamoring about too much traffic or lousy parks or crumbling bridges or under-funded schools or the need for more cops on the beat. They never, ever complain about too few cops.

Best of all they don’t go around town grumbling that folks should vote for that other candidate. They can’t. They can’t vote. They’re state prisoners.

As Grimm explains, the Florida legislature hasn’t yet passed legislation to prevent the Census Bureau’s prison count method from skewing state democracy. On the local level, however, many counties are taking action. County redistricting isn’t over yet in Florida, but we’ve already found that quite a few counties refuse to pad their local districts with prison populations. Hopefully soon the state legislature will follow local governments’ lead by ending prison gerrymandering statewide.

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