Karla Gonzales García
Editor’s Note: Statement by Karla Gonzales García, Program and Policy Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) on the House hearing on House Bill 1010, which ensures that people who are incarcerated are counted in their home districts for purposes of redistricting rather than where they are held:
Historically, gerrymandering has been used both as a racist weapon to undermine the political power of minority communities and a political weapon to establish a partisan advantage. That is why several other states have taken action to end the practice of counting people as living in the district where they are incarcerated in order to ensure equal and fair representation.
COLOR is proud to speak out in support of Colorado House Bill 1010, which would make sure that for the purposes of the census, people who are incarcerated are included in a count for their last residence. Currently, people are being counted where they are held. This creates an inaccurate picture of research and planning. It also means that communities, hurt most by mass incarceration, are harmed even further when they are denied appropriate representation. The census determines where congressional lines are drawn and how federal funds are allocated.
Historically, gerrymandering has been used both as a racist weapon to undermine the political power of minority communities and a political weapon to establish a partisan advantage.
Because prisons are disproportionately built in rural areas, but most incarcerated people call urban areas home, counting prisoners in the wrong place results in a systematic transfer of population and political clout from urban to rural areas. It also creates a benefit to have larger prison populations. We simply are not comfortable with the idea that a district gets more power because more people are living behind bars.
We’ve already seen rampant disenfranchisement of people who are incarcerated. We do not want to also see people erased from their communities and the resulting consequences of less representation and funding for the places they call home where they hope to go back to in order to rejoin families and restart their lives.
Policies that disrupt fair redistricting, erase people who are hard to count, or in this case move them and shift power away from the places they call home, end up limiting the political voice of people of color and other persons pushed to the margins.
Our democracy should not be rigged towards people with wealth and certainly not towards areas that happen to have prisons. We need to make sure that when districts are drawn, representation is determined and funding or planning that relies on these measurements are done that they appropriately count people.
Karla Gonzales García is the Program and Policy Director of Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.(COLOR).
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