by Jasmine Brianna Ellison
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sued the state of Connecticut on June 28th, 2018.
The lawsuit argues that farm districts where minority residency is low, benefit unfairly as a result, weakening urban districts. The suit reveals the practice of Connecticut counting prisoners when creating districts. This act is called gerrymandering: In this case, the act of choosing district boundaries to give your party an advantage.
States rely on The US Census Bureau for statistics when deciding district lines. The bureau counts people where they live or sleep most of the time. For an inmate, that is behind bars.
If granted, Republican state senator John Kissel would be most affected by the change. As his district comprises of seven towns, farmland and six country prisons near the Massachusetts border- thousands of inmates would be disqualified and his district total would deplete immensely.
Kissel has pointed out there are other communities affected by similar temporary populations, such as college students. “What about all the kids at UConn?” he asked in 2016. “What about other areas of the state where people are counted in terms of voting districts but they may not necessarily [reside] there year-round?”
NAACP has compiled evidence to prove this practice violates the equal protection section of the 14th amendment of the US constitution. The next census will be conducted in 2020 and the lawsuit calls for Connecticut’s recount their districts without inmates before the 2020 elections. This will allow more funding in urban districts.
“Pretty much the only avenue that we must take now is through the courts,” said Scot X Esdaile, chairman of the state NAACP chapter. Esdaile furthered, “This is about power, and nobody gives away power. You’ve got to take power.”
1. Susan Haigh. NAACP alleges inmate count practice weakens urban districts. AP News. June 2018.
2. Christopher Ingraham. This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see: How to steal an election: a visual guide. The Washington Post. March 2015.