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Ending prison gerrymandering is mainly justice for people on the outside

Miller is on the staff of the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 civic engagement and democracy reform groups. (The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)
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Meet the reformer: Christina Harvey, progressive pushing to spend on healthier and easier voting

The progressive Stand Up America, created after the 2016 election, became particularly visible last year pressing Congress to spend more on election security — and is reprising that role now in pushing for more federal funding to boost voting options in light of the pandemic. Christina Harvey became managing director, or No. 2 staffer, last year after her employer of 15 years, Eric Schneiderman, resigned as New York attorney general when four women accused him of physical abuse. She had joined his state Senate staff in 2003 after her first job, as a union organizer. Her answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What's the tweet-length description of your organization?

Working to strengthen our democracy by empowering our members to advocate for policies that increase voter participation and unrig a corrupt system that stands in the way of progressive change.

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Supporters of "prison gerrymandering" argue inmates should be counted where they are incarcerated to boost funding for local infrastructure. Above: Virginia's Keen Mountain Correctional Facility.

Virginia becoming 9th state to end 'prison gerrymanders'

Virginia prisoners will be counted in their home districts when congressional and state legislative maps are redrawn for the coming decade.

The state is about to become the ninth, and the third this year, to enact laws ending the practice known as "prison gerrymandering," the term coined by critics for counting inmates as residents where they are incarcerated instead of where they used to live.

Proponents of the change say the practice unfairly shifts power to rural districts at the expense of urban areas where a majority of the prisoners are from. But, to date, all the states that have made the switch are under Democratic governance.

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Inmates at the Cook County, Ill. jail vote in the state's primary earlier this month. Colorado has passed a law that counts prisoners at the address where they last lived instead of the prison for the purposes of drawing legislative boundaries.

Colorado ends prison gerrymandering

Colorado has become the eighth state to end prison gerrymandering, meaning prisoners will be counted for redistricting purposes at the last place they lived instead of at the site of their incarceration.

Gov. Jared Polis signed that switch into law last week after the bill was passed by his fellow Democrats in control of the General Assembly. New Jersey passed similar legislation earlier this year, and nearly a dozen other states are considering bills, according to the Prison Policy Initiative's Prison Gerrymandering Project.

Proponents of the change say counting people where they are imprisoned when drawing congressional, state legislative and local government districts unfairly shifts power to rural districts at the expense of urban areas where a majority of the prisoners are from.

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