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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 27, 2021 04:03 PM
From: Representative Joanna E. McClinton and Rep. Summer Lee
To: All House members
Subject: Ending Prison Gerrymandering
Currently, the U.S. Census counts incarcerated individuals as residents of a particular correctional facility rather than their home residential address. This unintentionally inflates the weight of a vote cast in districts that contain these facilities at the expense of areas that do not. This issue is one of fairness and equity and must be corrected immediately, before the Legislative Reapportionment Commission begins its work on district boundaries later this year.
Even though incarcerated individuals are often hundreds of miles away from their home, and those housed with felony convictions cannot vote, they are counted where their jail cell is located, even if they will soon be returning home. This unfair and short sided policy robs an individual’s home district of representation for a full ten years, even though the average prison sentence in the United States is roughly 3 years. Moreover, incarcerated individuals lack strong, enduring ties to the communities where they are held and often utilize the services of the representatives of their pre-incarceration district.
The current policy of the U.S. Census predominantly hurts low-income individuals and areas with a high minority population. In the interests of all Pennsylvanians, it is our duty as legislators to do everything in our power to ensure accurate and equal representation within our districts. Our legislation will count individuals incarcerated in correctional facilities at their last known residence before incarceration for the purpose of drawing legislative district lines. This change has already been implemented in several other states including New York and Maryland. It is long past time Pennsylvania joins them.
Please join us in supporting this legislation as we continue to move Pennsylvania forward by championing common-sense reform measures to make our state a fairer and more equitable place to live.

Introduced as HB706