A new report, “Imported ‘Constituents’: Incarcerated People and Political Clout in Connecticut,” examines how the state’s reliance on Census Bureau data – which counts incarcerated people as if they were residents of prison locations rather than their home communities — enhances the weight of votes cast in districts that contain prisons and dilutes the weight of a vote cast in all other districts. “About 10% of several Connecticut districts are made up of people who aren’t, by state law, residents of those districts,” said report author Peter Wagner.
The report finds that:
- Almost half of the state’s prison population comes from the state’s five largest cities, but almost two-thirds of the state’s prison cells are located in just five small towns.
- There are seven majority-White state house districts that claim at least 1,000 incarcerated people of color as residents of their districts.
Connecticut state law says that incarcerated people are residents of their homes, not the prison location.
Not all people in Connecticut prisons are barred from voting. Those who can vote – because they are awaiting trial or are not convicted of felonies — are required by state law to vote absentee as residents of their home districts.
The Connecticut Legislature is currently considering a bill, HB 6679, that would remedy the problem of prison gerrymandering by counting incarcerated people at their home addresses for redistricting purposes.
“It’s time to pass this legislation and send the message that every Connecticut resident’s vote should count, regardless of whether or not he or she lives near a big prison,” said Cheri Quickmire of Common Cause in Connecticut.
Four other states — New York, Maryland, Delaware, and California — have already passed similar legislation, and Maryland’s law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.