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Civil Rights and Race Relations in America and Their Impact on the Lives of African Americans
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Today, Dale Ho, Assistant Counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) testified at a hearing before the Kentucky General Assembly's Task Force on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs, concerning "prison-based gerrymandering" in Kentucky.
Kentucky law-like that of every other state-provides that an incarcerated person does not become a resident of a community simply by being confined there. This rule comports with common sense: incarcerated persons do not choose the districts where they are confined. They have no opportunities to interact with or develop enduring ties to the surrounding communities. And, of course, they cannot vote in those communities. They are not "constituents" of those districts in any credible sense of the word.
But during previous redistricting cycles, Kentucky has counted prison populations where they are incarcerated, rather than at their home addresses, which artificially inflates population numbers - and thus, political influence - in the districts where prisons are located, at the expense of voters living in all other districts.
"Prison-based gerrymandering violates the principle of one person, one vote enshrined in the United States Constitution," said Ho. "Election districts are supposed to be roughly equal in size, so that everyone is represented equally in the political process. But under the current system, your vote counts less if you don't live nearby a prison."