Bernie Grofman: “How Best to do Prison Population Data Reallocation, i.e., How Best to Mitigate Prison Gerrymandering?”

The following is a guest post from my UCI colleague Bernie Grofman:

There are now eleven states that committed to using data on past home addresses of prisoners and locating them for redistricting purposes not in the prison but where they had a  previous in-state address. Ten of these states will implement the change this decade, and there are several other states/redistricting commissions that are in the process of considering whether or not to  reallocate  prisoner population data. However, there are some key differences in how this reallocation is being accomplished in different states and jurisdictions, and these differences raise questions that involve both legal issues and practical complexities. The three key complications are:  (1) how to handle prison populations that do not have an in-state past address, (2) potential legal differences between how prison populations are to be treated for state legislative (or local) redistricting as opposed to congressional redistricting, and (3) differences in treatment of state and federal prisoners.

In an extended essay (nearly 7,000 words) that is available  from SSRN How Best to do Prison Population Data Reallocation, i.e., How Best to Mitigate Prison Gerrymandering? by Bernard Grofman :: SSRN , I discuss these complexities in detail and propose a best practices rule. That rule involves a recommendation that states copy the practices used in Virginia, in which the residual category of  prisoners without an in-state past address, or whose immediate past address is in a different state, be tallied at the prison. While this is not an ideal solution, it balances in my view competing representational concerns. Moreover, adoption of this rule has the practical effect that it is unlikely that state legislative district districts created with this limited tallying of prisoner population included will be so overpopulated with prisoners that even the removal of this out-of-state and unknown past home address prison population from the district would put that district in violation of  federal “one person, one vote” guidelines –at least if such districts are not excessively underpopulated relative to ideal.

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