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Is the Census counting prisoners in the right place?

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Monday, March 21, 2011

With legislative leaders about to begin redrawing legislative and congressional districts to reflect the 2010 Census, the General Assembly is considering a related issue: Where should prison inmates be counted?

The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund says Connecticut is one of 47 states that practices "prison-based gerrymandering" by counting inmates where they are confined, not where are they from.

Under state law, the prisoners are not legal residents of the communities where they are held, nor can they vote in those communities, even if they are serving time for misdemeanors and still have the legal right to vote.

But the U.S. Census lists prisoners as residents of the communities where they were confined on April 1, 2010, the day when the Census Bureau took a figurative snapshot of the 3,574,097 people it counted in Connecticut.

The result is that voters who live in legislative districts with prisons, which typically are located in rural areas, wield more political clout than other voters, because their districts include thousands of prisoners ineligible to vote.

In a district where 15 percent of residents are incarcerated, the votes of every group of 85 residents carry the same weight as 100 residents in a district with no prisoners. And that violates the constitutional principle of "one man, one vote," Dale Ho of the NAACP told the legislature's Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Read the full story here.