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End “Prison-Based Gerrymandering”

WHEREAS, the U.S. Census Bureau counts people in prison as residents of the community that contains the prison, not the community that they are legal residents of; and


WHEREAS, census data is the basis for legislative districts, counting incarcerated people as residents of the prison community enhances the weight of a vote cast in a district with a prison while diluting the weight of votes in all other districts; and


WHEREAS, this practice, which has come to be known as "prison-based gerrymandering", violates the United States Supreme Court's rule of "one person one vote" which requires that each person have the same access to government regardless of where they live; and


WHEREAS, African-Americans are incarcerated at a rate six (6) times higher than whites; and


WHEREAS, the majority of state and federal prisons are built in disproportionately white rural areas; and these same areas benefit financially from how the Census Bureau counts prisoners; and


WHEREAS, counting incarcerated people as residents of the prison community has a particularly negative effect on the voting strength of African-American communities; and


WHEREAS, in 2003, the African-American subcommittee of the Census Bureau's Race and Ethnic Advisory Committee recommended that the Census Bureau count prisoners as residents of their pre-incarceration addresses; and


WHEREAS, in 2006, the Census Bureau's own advisors at the National Research Council called on the Bureau to begin collecting the home addresses of incarcerated people and to study the best way to use those addresses; and


WHEREAS, in 2008, the NAACP convention in Cincinnati called on the Census Bureau to count incarcerated people as residents of their home addresses; and


WHEREAS, in 2009, Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, told the Washington Post that, "where incarcerated people are counted in the Census is a long-standing concern of the NAACP"; and


WHEREAS, in 2009, the NAACP Convention in New York reaffirmed its earlier resolution calling for the Census Bureau to change where prisoners were counted and decried the "enumeration of prisoners as local residents as violation of our nations' fundamental 'one person one vote' ethos of representational democracy, harkening back to the disgraceful three-fifths era of constitutionally sanctioned slavery";and


WHEREAS, in December 2009, a dozen African-American leaders including representatives of the NAACP, Legal Defense Fund, National Urban League, Rainbow/Push Coalition, and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation met with Commerce Department Secretary Gary Locke to ask for a change in how incarcerated people are counted in the Census; and


WHEREAS, the United States Census Bureau ignored all of these recommendations, and in April 2010, again counted more than 2 million incarcerated citizens as residents of the prison wherein they were imprisoned; and


WHEREAS, Congressman William Lacy Clay (D) of Missouri, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives, recognized that the Bureau had squandered the planning time necessary to change where prisoners are counted, negotiated a groundbreaking agreement to change how census counts of prisoners are reported to state and local governments; and


WHEREAS, the Census Bureau has agreed, for the first time, to release data on prison populations to states in time for redistricting; and


WHEREAS, Congressman Clay and voting rights advocates have urged states and local governments to take advantage of this more timely data to cease the practice of inflating the representation awarded to districts that contain prisons; and


WHEREAS, Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, said in congressional testimony that a national change in where incarcerated people are counted in the Census must wait until 2011 when planning begins for the next Census, but that eliminating prison-based gerrymandering; and


WHEREAS, the impact of prison-based gerrymandering would be greatly reduced if state and county legislatures refused to credit prison districts with the incarcerated population.


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP reaffirms the 2009 resolution on ending prison-based gerrymandering; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP will continue to advocate to the United States Congress, the United States Department of Commerce and to the public that the Census count incarcerated people as residents of their last home address; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP request the United States Congress to address the disparity-gap in funding as a result of where prisoners are counted; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP concludes that until the Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of their homes, the fundamental principle of "one person one vote" would be best satisfied if redistricting committees refused to use prison counts to mask population shortfalls in districts that contain prisons; and


BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocate that the prison population census count not be used in any legislative district at the local, state and federal level.