Friday, October 24, 2008

The Census, prisons, and the rural vote

Those are the related subjects of Sam Roberts' report in today's New York Times about the Census Bureau's policy of counting inmates in the county in which they are imprisoned, not in their home counties. This can lead to some wacky results, as in Jones County, Iowa, where only 58 people of about 1,400 living in one ward of the city of Anamosa are not prisoners. Because prisoners cannot vote, this leaves disproportionate power in the hands of a handful. Here is an excerpt from Roberts' story that lends further perspective to the problem:
Concerns about so-called prison-based gerrymandering have grown as the number of inmates around the nation has ballooned. Similar disparities have been identified in upstate New York, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Critics say the census should count prisoners in the district where they lived before they were incarcerated.

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