Stark illustrations of prison gerrymandering in Oklahoma

The City of McAlester illustrates how prison gerrymandering skews representation in Oklahoma.

by Aleks Kajstura, November 8, 2016

Just in time for this election day, Kate Carlton Greer of KOSU reminds us that not all votes end up equal when mass incarceration meets outdated redistricting practices.

Her reporting gives a great overview of how prison gerrymandering dismantles our democracy’s bedrock principle of “one person, one vote” in Oklahoma.

After finishing up work at the airplane manufacturing plant where Robert Karr has worked for more than three decades, the McAlester city councilman drives his pickup truck around the town’s 4th ward. …

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary sits in Karr’s ward. But it’s not the only prison here. The Jackie Brannon Correctional Center is another block away. And those prisoners — all 1,500 or so — are technically Karr’’s constituents.

Instead of 3,000 constituents, Karr now represents around 1,300. His ward is less than half the size of others in the city, so his vote on the city council is actually more powerful.

It might not be such a big deal in local politics, but Karr worries about the implications on a larger scale.

“When you’re more powerful than a local city like a state representative or something, or a United States representative, it really wouldn’t be fair with somebody like that,” Karr says.

“If you count a few people in the wrong place, that’s not ideal,” says Aleks Kajstura with the Prison Policy Initiative…. But as incarceration rates have grown, Kajstura says equal representation has become harder to maintain.

Read or listen to the whole story here.

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