Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-459

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE COUNTING OF INCARCERATED PERSONS FOR PURPOSES OF DETERMINING LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS AND DISTRIBUTING STATE AND FEDERAL FUNDS.

Vote Date:

3/21/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

3/21/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

Concerns' surrounding inmates' residency, representation and the impact on state assembly, senatorial districts and municipal redistricting has been an ongoing issue. This bill will adjust the population of incarcerated persons as residents of their last town of residency, opposed to residents of the town in which the correctional facility is located.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, Werner Oyandel, Executive Director: submitted testimony in support of this bill. Connecticut state law prohibits prison gerrymandering, but it has been ignored. C.G.S. Sec. 9-14, which states; “No person shall be deemed to have lost his residence in any town by reason of his absence therefrom in any institution maintained by the state.”

Connecticut residents in the 157 towns are underrepresented when we count prisoners as residents of the town where they are incarcerated. A good example, in the prison towns of Enfield and Cheshire, inmates counted as residents, has skewed political representation. The state's Hispanic communities are also underrepresented. In 2010 over 30 percent of Hispanics in Enfield were incarcerated in the town's three prisons facilities. In 2014 the household population of Enfield was only 6 percent Hispanic; yet, incarcerated Hispanics in Enfield contribute disproportionately to the town's overrepresentation in the state legislature.

LPRAC's board, consisting of both Republican and Democrat voted unanimously for S.B. 459 and to end counting prisoners, who are disproportionally Hispanic, at their last known town of residency for the sole purpose of redistricting once every ten years.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Hispanic Federation, Connecticut State Director, Ingrid Alvarez: submitted testimony supporting S.B. 459. The basis and foundation of our democratic form of government is the right to vote. Our communities are constantly changing. With changes come demographic shifts that need to be properly represented in a way that district lines are drawn, so as not to disenfranchise any voting bloc. The act of prison gerrymandering too often achieves the opposite goal, further disenfranchising communities, especially those that are majority black and Latino.

Prison gerrymandering is among the most exploitive and unjust process and urge support of S.B. 459.

American Civil Liberties Union, David McGuire, Legislative and Policy Director: testified in support of this bill. ACLU supports voting rights, open government, and fair treatment under the law. Prison gerrymandering intersects with each of these critical issues. Prisoners are not eligible to vote in Connecticut; however the state still counts prisoners as citizens for purposes of districting and allocating elected representatives and funds. Prisoners are not counted as citizens in the district where they lived, but rather as citizens of the districts where they are incarcerated. This results in the state counting districts where prisons are located as having a much larger population of voters than they actually do.

This bill will ensure voting equality and the ACLU supports S.B. 459.

League of Women Voters submitted testimony in support of this bill. It is vital that legislative districts reflect the diversity of the populace they represent and serve, especially with regard to racial and ethnic diversity. For districting purposes, incarcerated persons should be counted in their hometown, not in the communities where they are incarcerated. The focus should be on the impact of prison gerrymandering on redistricting and therefore legislative representation.

The League of Women Voters believes that it is time to end prison gerrymandering in Connecticut, and support passage of S.B. 459.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Prison Policy initiative, Attorney Aleks Kajstura, Legal Director: Attorney Kajstura is fully supportive of this bill's goal to end prison gerrymandering. For more than a decade, the Prison Policy Initiative has been working to convince the Census Bureau to update their methodology and count incarcerated people as residents of their legal home addresses. The Prison Policy initiative is in opposition to the funding component of the bill.

This bill's attempt to influence state and federal funding distribution is misguided. No known significant impact of prison populations on Connecticut's current funding formulas; the bill attempts to address a problem that doesn't exist. However, in support of SB 459 and the goal to end prison gerrymandering. The G.S.C. sec. 9-14 is explicit. In Connecticut, some persons in prison retain the right to vote. For voting purposes in those cases, inmates are not permitted to claim residence in the prison, but must vote absentee in their home communities. Yet when the state draws legislative districts, it credits prison population to the prison community, in clear conflict with treatment of incarcerated persons.

The funding provision serves no purpose but to distract from critical issues of representational equality. Therefore, oppose SB 459 as currently drafted.

Reported by: Rhonda Carroll

Date: April 5, 2016