I’ve recently been researching voting rights and political activity that has to do with felons and the prison system. In doing research, I ran across an intereting concept that seems to be effecting much of America. Kansas and the prison district that represents my census count is actually one of the biggest areas in America where prison based gerrymandering could be seen as an issues. This is because of the unusually large number of prison instutions in the Lansing/Levenworth area of Kansas. Take a look at the number of prison inmates that are counted in Kansas’ 40th/41st district for the Kansas House of Representatives, then I’ll explain how these figures are distorting the weight of “one person one vote.”
Withing a few mile radious in Lansing/Levenworht Kansas, there are four seperare prison facilities with large populations. We have Lansing Correctional Facility, the prison I’m housed in with a population of about 2,342, in the 40th district. Down the street is the US Federal prison Levenworth and Camp Levenworth with a population of about 2,039, in the 41st district. The Levenworth Detentioncenter or local jail has a population of roughly 799, in the 40th district. And last, there is the US disciplinary barracks at Fort Levenworth that houses about 442, also in the 40th district. The total number of people being held in these facilities at any time is about 5,622.
The way our government “sausage” is put together is like this. People from each district elect someone they feel will represent them and have their voice heard in either the house of representatives or the Kansas senate. The House of representatives is made up of 125 seats. That is what well focus on here. Each of these seats represents the vote and voice of about 22,825 residence, equally spaced out in each district with distince district lines.
Where the prisons start to come into play ans effect the representation is like this. Prisoners don’t have a voice to vote. They lose that right in Kansas until off parol. The district lines are drawn every 10 years from research done by the Census Bureau. They are supposed to drawn lines to represent an equal number of people in each district. In the case of a large number of prisoners without a voice to vote…. guess what, there is a group of people that now don’t have “one person one vote…” They now represent the people in prison without a voice at the expense of the people locked up unable to represent themself and their unique view. In the case of District 40/ in Kansas where the large group of prisons is located, the number of actual voters is 18,095… where all other districts represent on average 22,825 people. As drawn, for every 4 residence that have the right to vote in House district 40 actually have the voting power of 5 residence in all other districts. Unfair? I think so.
So what can be done about this??? The answer is really pretty simple. The prisons can collect the home addresses of each prisoner and count that person for census purposes as a member of their home district. This would illiminate the problem. It looks as if this is in the works for the 2020 census.
The national research council in a report commissioned by the Census Bureau stated in 2006 report “The evidence for political inequities in redistricting that can arise due to the counting of prisoners at the prison location is compelling.”
The way things usually work “on average, we can expect a party that has recently taken control of the redistricting process to draw more than 5,000 prisoners from districts controlled by the other party into their safest district.” This frees up political party voters to help in other districts that could be swayed.
In Kansas redistricting is done by “The Kansas Reapportionment Commission.” It appears as of the 2020 census, the information will be given to states of how many prisoners are being counted and where. This could help if used to either take prisoners out of the district numbers (since they have lost the right to vote) or have the inmates counted in the district where they originally lived.
I hope this information has been helpful and insightful. It looks like things will get better with this issues as of the 2020 census. I wish you a positive day and learning experence.