WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pennsylvania’s bipartisan redistricting committee voted on Tuesday to end prison gerrymandering in the state. Prison gerrymandering occurs when prison populations are counted in the redistricting process as residents of the district where they are incarcerated instead of their original community. Since prisons are typically located in rural areas, prison gerrymandering, therefore, grants more political power to rural, typically racially-homogenous districts by including incarcerated individuals in their population count, drawing maps that dilute the voting power of voters residing in urban districts, which are often more racially diverse. “Across the country, prison-based gerrymandering weakens minority voting strength and transfers political power from urban communities of color to predominantly white areas,” according to the NAACP.
Pennsylvania’s redistricting commission passed a resolution to mostly end this practice when drawing legislative districts. Except for prisoners serving life sentences, incarcerated Pennsylvanians will be considered residents of the Pennsylvania district they last resided in before beginning their sentence. For homeless Pennsylvanians, the district where they most frequently stayed and received services will be counted as their residence. The resolution passed with a 3-2 vote, with both Republicans on the commission opposing the provision.