Legislature Votes to End ‘Prison Gerrymandering’

The Connecticut House of Representatives has at long last voted to end prison gerrymandering.

The bill, which was passed by the state Senate last week, now heads to the Governor’s desk. 

Statement of Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director of Common Cause in Connecticut

Our state’s justice system imprisons Black people at a rate almost ten times that of whites. Communities where prisons are built are predominantly white and rural; while the communities that many incarcerated people call “home” are generally non-white and metropolitan areas. 

The shameful 230-year-old practice called “prison gerrymandering” has meant that power has been redistributed unfairly. Communities where prisons are built have gotten an outsize say in Connecticut elections at the expense of other areas. That’s because most incarcerated people can’t vote; so when a voting district included a prison population, the district contained fewer voters and fewer votes were needed to elect its officials.

For example, each voter in one Connecticut senate district had almost 9% more influence than voters in non-prison districts. The voters in seven state house districts had at least 4% more influence than voters in non-prison districts. 

By passing SB 753, the Connecticut General Assembly has changed that shameful practice, just in time for the next round of redistricting. This time around, legislative district lines should be drawn in a way that counts incarcerated people in their “home” communities — rebalancing the value of each vote and ensuring that voters can elect officials who represent their interests.

I would like to thank the Chairs of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, Sen. Mae Flexer and Rep. Dan Fox, for their work on this bill, as well as the 95 members of the House of Representatives who supported it. Especially, Sen. Gary Winfield, former State Reps. Mike Lawlor and Bill Dyson (retired) who have been long-time champions of counting incarcerated persons in their home communities. This year’s legislation was built on their commitment. Common Cause in Connecticut appreciates all who worked hard to move this critical bill in advance of the reapportionment of legislative districts, based on the decennial census, which is set to begin this fall. 

Statement of Bilal Dabir Sekou, PhD., Board Chair of Common Cause in Connecticut and Board member of Common Cause 

Our democracy works on the principles of fair representation and “one person, one vote” — and Connecticut’s past use of prison gerrymandering violated those principles. 

Prison gerrymandering is a form of vote suppression. It dilutes the value of Black votes while enhancing the value of white votes. It has already been banned by the states of Maryland, New York, Delaware, California, Washington, Nevada, New Jersey, Colorado, Virginia and Illinois — and it’s time to ban it here.