Legal brief: Prisoners should be counted in their home communities

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The League of Women Voters of Virginia, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization have jointly filed an amicus brief to prohibit prison gerrymandering.

On July 1, 2020, the anti-prison gerrymandering law went into effect in Virginia, requiring that inmates be counted at their last home address rather than where they are currently incarcerated.

“The anti-prison gerrymandering law should be used by the redistricting commission and does not violate Virginia’s constitution,” said Deb Wake, president of the LWV of Virginia. “Incarcerated people should be counted at their last home address, not in the communities where they are incarcerated. Otherwise, the political power of their communities is limited.”

Black Virginians make up less than 21 percent of Virginia’s population but comprise 56 percent of Virginia’s incarcerated population. By counting inmates at their last home address, their numbers are used for accurate representation and resource allocation.

“The mass incarceration of Black and Brown Virginians takes away the voting power of those communities and adds voting power to mostly white, rural communities,” said Vishal Agraharkar, senior staff attorney at ACLU of Virginia. “We must end prison gerrymandering and count incarcerated people in their home districts to ensure the promise of ‘one person, one vote.’”

Incarcerated people should be counted where they have voting power,” said Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the US. “Black and brown individuals are disproportionately represented in our prisons — not counting them in their communities dilutes the overall voting power of those incarcerated in a facility outside of their home state. Virginia’s redistricting commission must be allowed to exercise the anti-prison gerrymandering law when drawing Virginia’s maps.”

“The National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization appreciates the Virginia ACLU taking the lead and the Virginia League of Woman Voters for joining in this Amicus action to enforce the Virginia Statue restricting prison gerrymandering in the Commonwealth, a practice that has had race-based impacts on many communities in Virginia,” said Phil Thompson, executive director of NBNRO. “The rights of the incarcerated to be counted within their home communities should not be a deprivation of their incarceration”


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