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Can Gerrymandering be a thing of the past, or will it be a Constant Obstacle for People of Color?

Despite having similar bills being terminated in the early stages of the legislative process, in 2021 the NAACP was able to pass a prison gerrymandering bill in Connecticut in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Occurring when political districts are drawn, gerrymandering is defined as the redrawing of electoral districts in a way that gives a political party an unfair advantage. More specifically, prison gerrymandering is incarcerated people being counted towards the population of their prison’s surrounding area. This inevitably hurts convicts’ hometowns, as the majority of incarcerated U.S. citizens are people of color and from urban areas. Prisons, however, are typically located in predominately White, rural environments. Due to incarcerated people being counted towards the population of their surrounding areas, such regions will appear to have a larger population than they actually do. As a result, the communities that are essentially having portions of their populations stolen are left with weakened voting power. This practice steals political power from urban communities of color and transfers it to predominately White areas, not allowing marginalized communities to have the political representation their districts deserve.

For example, about 20% of the U.S. population is from rural environments, however, 40% of convicts are kept in rural areas. As of November 1, 2021, over a dozen states were in the process of changing how they counted those who are incarcerated. Through research and public activism, government officials were becoming increasingly aware of the disproportionate ramifications prison gerrymandering had on communities of color. I however do not believe that when prison gerrymandering became a popular topic of discussion, it was not the first-time certain politicians had heard about it. Much like many aspects of the criminal justice system, certain governmental actions were done to purposefully hinder communities of color, more specifically Black people, in order to maintain a certain social and racial hierarchy. “Our criminal legal system is not broken, [it is] doing exactly what it was designed to do.”

The bill passing in Connecticut is for its incarcerated community, as they will now count towards their hometowns’ populations, enabling them to still have some form of power/influence in their community. Claudine Fox, the ACLU of Connecticut’s interim director of public policy and advocacy, stated that the passage of this bill humanizes “people that are often discounted and not seen as living bodies with feelings.” States such as New Jersey, California, and Illinois have all made attempts to rectify their history of gerrymandering. I argue that these attempts to correct government mistakes continue, especially given that the U.S. has become more diverse. According to the 2020 Census, despite the White population being the majority in the U.S., it has shrunk by about 9%. The populations of minorities, on the other hand, have grown since the 2010 U.S. Census. Specifically, the Black population grew 5.6%, the Latine/Hispanic population grew 23%, and the Asian population grew 35%.

“Maps can be drawn to either aid communities of color to have a voice, or designed to drown them out.” While some believe that gerrymandering will continue to exist after the current (re)drawing of district maps, activists and average citizens can still have an influence on how representative district maps can be. Given the current media attention, and the growing number of non-White citizens in the United States, at some point, whether it be in the near future or decades away, gerrymandering could be a thing of the past.


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