Federal court to hear challenge to prison gerrymandering
A federal appeals court greenlit a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of counting prisoners where they're incarcerated, rather than where they're from, when drawing legislative boundaries.
While the ruling Tuesday by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals only advances the lawsuit to trial before three federal judges, it also holds open the possibility of an eventual landmark Supreme Court ruling on whether the practice of so-called prison gerrymandering violates the ʺone person, one voteʺ guarantee under the 14th Amendment.
The suit, by the relatives of five African-American inmates and backed by the NAACP, challenges the way prisoners are counted when apportioning seats in the Connecticut General Assembly. Democratic state Attorney General William Tong says the system, which is also in place in 40 other states, is both fair and constitutional.
Like most states, prisoners in Connecticut are disproportionately black and Latino men from urban areas, but they are serving their sentences in remote areas with mostly white populations.
"We may finally have the chance to reveal the injustice of prison gerrymandering," Scot Esdaile, a member of the NAACP's national board of directors, told Courthouse News Service. "We hope that soon the voices and votes from our communities will count the same as those from the rural districts where the prisons are located."
Marginal improvements have been made to help voters understand the questions posed to them on the ballot this November, a new study concludes, but such ballot measures still favor the college-educated — who represent a minority of the U.S. population.
This year voters in eight states will decide the fate of a collective 36 such propositions. In a study released Thursday, Ballotpedia assessed how easy it is to comprehend what each proposal would accomplish, concluding that the difficulty level had decreased compared with the referendums decided in the last off-year election of 2017 — but not by much.
In fact, according to a pair of well-established tests, 21 of the 36 ballot measures cannot be understood by the 40 percent of the voting-age population who never attended college.
Colorado has become the second state to ask the Supreme Court to decide if states may legally bind their presidential electors to vote for the candidate who carried their state.
The issue of so-called faithless electors is the latest aspect of an increasingly heated debate about the virtues and flaws of the Electoral College that has blossomed, especially among progressive democracy reform advocates, now that two of the past five presidential winners (Donald Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000) got to the Oval Office despite losing the national popular vote.