What is prison gerrymandering, and what’s being done about it in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It is called prison gerrymandering, inmates are counted in counties they are incarcerated.

“Prison gerrymandering is a foundational racial equity issue,” Salewa Ogunmefun of Pa. Voice said. Prisoners are not counted in the counties where they are from. “You have less representation than you should have,” Ogunmefun said.

Inmates complain they’re not represented by lawmakers where they live and don’t count in the districts they call home. “They are not receiving representation at all. The legislators there have washed their hands of them and said sorry we don’t do anything for those people,” Jenna Henry of Better Pa. said.

35 organizations sent a letter calling on the legislative reapportionment to fix it and draw boundaries counting temporary inmates as residents of their home counties.

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“A lot of concerns. A lot of questions we have,” House Republican Spokesman, Jason Gottesman said. House Republicans argue the commission shouldn’t have such power. “Such a major policy change should happen through the legislative discussion through House and Senate and gets signed off from the governor.”

The governor supports letting the commission make the change. So does the League of Women Voters which signed that letter and is tired of waiting on lawmakers. “The Pennsylvania legislature is resistant to any effort to reform the redistricting process, bills with strong bipartisan support are ignored or gutted,” Shirley McCormick, a member of the League of Women Voters said.

Organizers have threatened a lawsuit if the commission doesn’t end prion gerrymandering this cycle.

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