End Prison Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania

PA Legislative Reapportionment Commission Members, Governor Wolf & PA Legislators

Prison Gerrymandering is the practice of states/local governments counting incarcerated individuals as residents of the areas where they are imprisoned instead of their homes when election district lines are drawn.

The practice inflates the population count - and thus, the political influence - of the districts where prisons and jails are located. As a result, the voting power of everyone living outside of those districts is weakened.

Prison-based gerrymandering makes a mockery of the principle of “one person, one vote,” which requires that election districts be composed of roughly the same number of constituents so that every person receives the same level of representation.

Pennsylvania's Legislative Reapportionment Commission has the ability to end this arcane practice; all they need to do is use state data to count those temporarily-incarcerated Pennsylvanians at their homes. It's that simple.

Sign the petition to tell your legislators, Governor Wolf, and most importantly, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, it's time to end prison gerrymandering in Pennsylvania.

For more information, check out our one pager on prison gerrymandering here.

Petition by
Better PA
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

To: PA Legislative Reapportionment Commission Members, Governor Wolf & PA Legislators
From: [Your Name]

We the undersigned are writing to ask the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to end the practice of assigning incarcerated persons to districts in which they are incarcerated, rather than the districts that they permanently call home. This practice, commonly known as prison gerrymandering, gives extra political influence to a small number of residents who live near prisons while diluting the votes of residents in every other legislative district. It skews democracy on both the state and local levels and is harming every county and city government in the Commonwealth where there is not a prison.

We strongly urge you to use your power to count temporarily incarcerated residents in their home districts when drawing legislative maps.

Failing to count incarcerated Pennsylvanians at home for redistricting purposes undermines the constitutional guarantee of “one person, one vote,” with clear ramifications for our democracy. In essence, by counting the temporarily incarcerated in their prison district, this commission will be diluting the votes of residents who do not live near prisons. Incarcerated people who are allowed to vote, those incarcerated for misdemeanor offenses or currently being held pending trial, are not legally allowed to vote in the district where they are imprisoned. They must vote in their home district. There are people in state prison on misdemeanor offenses. While the elected officials in the communities housing their prison are technically supposed to represent them, these temporarily incarcerated Pennsylvanians will most often have to call on the elected officials from their home communities for constituent services. This creates a dynamic that is unfair for both residents and elected officials, and it creates a situation where there is little to no incentive for the elected official representing the community housing the prison to service those temporary constituents.

But the most compelling reason to count temporarily incarcerated Pennsylvanians in their home districts is simple: these are their home districts. The average offender in Pennsylvania prisons serves only around four years. That means the typical Pennsylvanian who is temporarily incarcerated in one of our prisons will go home during the 10-year period of time when legislative maps remain set, and they will return to a home district where they have not been counted as a constituent.

End prison gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. Through the process of creating new legislative maps in Pennsylvania, we must count temporarily incarcerated residents in their home districts when drawing legislative maps.