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Calling for the End of “Prison-Based Gerrymandering”

WHEREAS, almost one percent of the American adult population and 3.6 percent of the African-American population is temporarily incarcerated; and 

WHEREAS, the United States Census is conducted every decade, traditionally counting prisoners – in defiance of most States' constitutions and laws regarding voluntary residency standards and the Supreme Court's ―one-person one-vote‖ rule as residents of the prisons where incarcerated and not from where they had voluntarily resided and will return upon release; and 

WHEREAS, this arcane counting methodology results in an artificial reduction in the population of urban neighborhoods where most prisoners come from, swelling rural communities Census counts where most prisons are located; and 

WHEREAS, Congressional and State legislative district lines are based on population counts, more than $300 billion in federal funds is distributed annually based on Census counts, while business, medical facilities and school district decisions are made regarding where to build and expand on Census data; and 

WHEREAS, in New York State, by way of example, seven rural State senate districts, confining 93 percent of this State's prisoners (82% of whom are persons of color), would not meet the U.S. Supreme Court's minimum population requirements without counting prisoners as ―local residents;‖ thus these artificially inflated district populations provide disproportional political power to these seven senators to direct over $1 billion annually into their districts to finance penal operations employing 30,000 people, thus giving them little incentive to consider or pursue policies that might reduce the number of people sent to prison and for how long, in turn producing a substantive negative representational impact; and 

WHEREAS, 13 percent of a Texas district and 15 percent of a Montana district consists of prisoner ―residents,‖ 21 counties across the nation have at least 20 percent of  their population census composed by prison inmates, and one Iowa City legislative district is composed of 96 percent prisoners lending the handful of actual residents 25 times the political power on city affairs as residents in other sections of the city, thus these penal Census counts create electoral inequities at all levels of government; and 

WHEREAS, this process blatantly violates the U.S. Supreme Court rulings requiring legislative districts be divided equally based on populations, and thus distorts policy and democracy at this federal, state and local levels; and 

WHEREAS, the Census Bureau's African-American advisory committee, the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies, and post-Census Bureau director Kenneth Prewitt call for such change; and 

WHEREAS, the New York Times, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Flint Journal and Jackson City Patriot have editorialized in favor of ending prison — based gerrymandering. 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP, on principle, decries the enumeration of prisoners as local residents as a violation of our nation's fundamental one-person one-vote ethos of representational democracy, harkening back to the disgraceful three-fifths era of constitutionally-sanctioned slavery; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP calls on the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census to enumerate prisoners within census blocks where domiciled at their time of arrest; and 

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that NAACP units call upon their Congressional representatives to effect such a permanent change to the Census Bureau enumeration procedures. 

Derrick Lewis - Youth & College Hero

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