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Two Major Steps Forward towards Political Equality in Rhode Island and Ohio

Brenda Wright

Updates on our work to fight prison gerrymandering and voter purges in Rhode Island and Ohio, respectively.

This week Demos is celebrating two major steps forward in our work to advance political and economic equality through our litigation initiatives.

This week a federal court issued a decision, just the second of its kind in the nation, finding that prison gerrymandering violates the one person, one vote requirement of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Demos and our partners brought this case two years ago as part of our effort to change how incarcerated persons are counted in redistricting.

READ: Federal Court Rules that Prison-based Gerrymandering Violates the Constitution

U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux held that Cranston, Rhode Island, violated the Constitution when it allocated the entire incarcerated population of the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) as “residents” of one ward of the city for the purposes of drawing City Council and School Committee districts. This distorts democracy because Cranston counts incarcerated people while refusing to provide them any meaningful representation.  

Our goal is for the incarcerated to be counted, but in the right place—their home community—because you don’t lose your residence by imprisonment. The federal court decision requires Cranston to draw new, constitutionally acceptable districts within 30 days, in time for the 2016 elections.

And just yesterday, the Demos legal team asked a federal court in Ohio to end another pernicious practice—purging qualified voters from the registration rolls for no reason other than their failure to vote on a frequent basis. Our lawyers have asked the federal court for a permanent injunction preventing Ohio from conducting these purges—which are unlawful under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993—just as the 2016 election is approaching.

I’m proud of the work our legal team is doing to protect the right to vote in this critical election year and grateful for your support.