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Press release/statement

Demos Applauds California’s Enactment of Legislation to End Prison-Based Gerrymandering

NEW YORK-- National public policy organization Demos applauds California Governor Brown for signing AB 420, a bill to end prison-based gerrymandering. Introduced by Assemblymember Mike Davis, the legislation ends the practice of treating incarcerated individuals as residents of the districts where they are temporarily confined, for redistricting purposes. 

This legislation directs the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to report the last known addresses of incarcerated persons to the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission. The data can then be used to count incarcerated individuals as members of their home communities. The new rule will go into effect in the 2020 redistricting cycle.

“We applaud California’s elected officials for reforming the state’s practice of treating incarcerated individuals as residents of their prison localities for redistricting purposes,” said Brenda Wright, Democracy Program Director at Demos. “This reform brings California’s redistricting practices into alignment with the state’s own residency laws, which provide that a person does not gain or lose a domicile solely by reason of incarceration,” Wright added.

“California’s previous miscount of incarcerated individuals also violated the fundamental ‘one-person, one-vote’ principle of our democracy.  Counting them as residents in prison localities artificially inflates the local population count, allowing districts to be drawn with fewer actual constituents than required. This then impairs the representation of individuals in districts that are not padded by inclusion of a prison population,” said Wright.

The new rules for allocating incarcerated populations in AB 420 echo local practices; most California counties with state prisons omit the prison population from their calculations when drawing county supervisorial districts.  California’s new legislation makes it the fourth state to reform its redistricting practices concerning incarcerated persons, joining New York, Maryland and Delaware which have enacted similar legislation.

“We hope that the U.S. Census Bureau will take note of the growing state trend to end prison-based gerrymandering, and begin counting incarcerated persons as residents of their home communities in the 2020 decennial census,” added Brenda Wright.