What Happens When Prisoners Count In The Census But Not At The Polls?

Oct 30, 2019

The 2020 Census will be conducted next year. Many citizens will be counted in the places where they’ve grown up and currently live.

But if you’re incarcerated, you may be counted as a resident of the county in which you’re imprisoned and not the one you’re actually from.

That practice is known as prison gerrymandering. It can inflate the population of a county with a large prison population, giving more power to the people who vote there.

But most prisoners can’t vote while incarcerated. Some lose their right to vote completely, even after they’ve served their sentence.

As Nicole Lewis at The Marshall Project writes:

In only two states, Maine and Vermont, all prisoners are eligible to vote. However, some prisoners in Mississippi, Alaska and Alabama can vote while incarcerated, depending on their convictions. [Vermont Senator Bernie] Sanders is the sole presidential candidate to support the idea of prisoners voting, regardless of their crimes. His stance may reflect the reality that his home state of Vermont, and its neighbor Maine, have long-established procedures, and general public acceptance, of people voting from behind bars.

We also look at how voting rights differ around the country for people convicted of a felony.

Produced by Haili Blassingame.


Nicole Lewis, Staff writer, the Marshall Project; @nikki_lew

Aleks Kajstura, Legal director, the Prison Policy Initiative; @AleksKajstura

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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