The Supreme Court requires state- and local governments to update their electoral districts once per decade to ensure that each district contains the same population, which gives each resident equal representation in government. However, the U.S. Census Bureau counts people where they are incarcerated, not where they are from, so when jurisdictions rely on raw Census data which does not reflect their real populations, democracy suffers.
New Mexico law says a prison cell is not a residence: “[A] person does not gain or lose residence solely by reason of his presence or absence . . . while confined in a public prison.” – New Mexico Statutes §1-1-7(D).
Frequently, prisons and correctional facilities are located in rural areas but the majority of the prison population ordinarily resides in more urban and suburban areas of the state. By including incarcerated persons in these more rural districts, power is inherently shifted away from more populous areas toward the rural counties and districts.
Common Cause New Mexico and the ACLU of New Mexico are working to ensure that every New Mexican has fair and equal representation in government.
Ten states and more than 200 county and municipal governments now adjust Census data to account for prison populations prior to redistricting in order to create more equitable and accurate districts.
States that are not able to implement legislation prior to the current redistricting cycle can still minimize the impact of prison gerrymandering by using correctional population data from the Census to avoid concentrating prison populations within a single district.
Local governments—towns, cities, counties, and school districts—should exclude correctional facilities when local district lines are drawn. This approach will ensure that districts have equal numbers of actual residents and, therefore, that residents have truly equal representation.
Join us in the fight to end prison gerrymandering for fair districts!
Tell legislators and the Citizen Redistricting Committee to adjust Census data to account for prison populations prior to redistricting in order to create more equitable and accurate districts.