Prison Gerrymandering

Voting districts should be drawn in a way that helps ensure that everyone has a voice in our democracy. But most states count people who are incarcerated at the places where they are imprisoned rather than as part of their home community. This counting method known as prison gerrymandering, distorts our democracy by artificially inflating the vote strength of rural places with prisons while deflating areas without prisons — because most people in prison can’t vote.

State and local governments are required 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.

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 is working to ensure that everyone has fair and equal representation in government.

Prison Gerrymandering Webinars



Blog: An Equitable Solution to Ending Prison Gerrymandering
Step by Step Guide: How to count incarcerated people at home
Take Action: End Prison Gerrymandering in New Mexico!
Gerrymander Gazette: Slaying the Prison Gerrymander Edition
From Prison to Gerrymandering: My Journey is the Only Straight Line
Next Campaign

Ethics & Accountability