In Historic Ruling, Federal Judge Strikes Down Prison Gerrymandering in Florida

The Palm Beach Post reported Monday that a federal judge in Florida struck down the use of prison gerrymandering in Jefferson County, declaring it unconstitutional. In other words, the judge county officials cannot include prison populations when drawing local electoral districts because it violates the legal precedent of “one percent, one vote,” giving some voters within the county greater power than others.

The decision is historic as it is the first time a judge has ruled on “prison-based gerrymandering.”

The Palm Beach Post reports:

The ACLU and several Jefferson County residents filed the lawsuit after the county — which had a non-prison population of 13,604 in the 2010 census — counted 1,157 Jefferson Correctional Institute inmates in one district.

 

That amounted to more than a third of the population of that district and gave the eligible voters in the district almost twice the voting power of others in the county.

 

County residents involved in the lawsuit say it also diluted minority voting power. According to census figures, blacks make up about one third of the county’s voting age population. There is one black on the five-person county commission and two blacks on the five-person county school board.

“This ruling is a major win for the principle of ‘one person, one vote,” stated Randall Berg, director of the Florida Justice Institute. “Judge Walker’s ruling is a resounding affirmation of The Fourteenth Amendment rights of the people in Jefferson County whose representation was being diluted by this system.”

Jefferson County officials must submit a new map that complies with the ruling by April 4. The ruling in the county comes just days before a three-judge panel is scheduled to consider a lawsuit the state’s congressional map.

Read the full Palm Beach Post report here

Photo Credi: sakhorn / shutterstock.com