Sacramento– Assembly Bill 420, which seeks to end prison gerrymandering by changing the way California’s inmates are counted for redistricting purposes, was approved by the full body of the State Assembly today. The vote was 45 to 31.
“Counting incarcerated individuals where they are confined violates the one person, one vote principle provided in the U.S. Constitution,” Assemblyman Mike Davis said. “Under California Election Code 2025, incarcerated individuals do not obtain legal residence in a particular district by being confined there. Prison-based gerrymandering unfairly dilutes the voting strength of communities of color, given the rate of African Americans and Latinos in California prisons, collectively more than 60%. The count is based on simply counting people where they live, not on their voting status. The disabled are counted and children are counted as a result. We need to implement a policy of inclusion, not exclusion. Our democracy in this state will be better off as a result of correcting this practice,” Assemblyman Davis revealed.
AB 420 would require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to submit to the California Commission on Redistricting by December 31, 2019 the last known address information on its entire inmate population, excluding only those whose last known address is outside California. The bill would also request that the Commission take the inmate address data into consideration when drawing new district lines for the 2021 and subsequent redistricting cycles. AB 420 seeks to make California comply with its own Elections Code Section 2025, which defines a person’s legal residence for voting purposes, and explicitly provides that a person does not lose that legal residence by virtue of the fact that he or she is incarcerated.
Currently, California follows the practice of the U.S. Census, and counts inmates wherever they are found, rather than by assigning them to what remains their legal residence, even while they are in prison. This has a disenfranchising effect on those populations most affected by the incarceration statistics, notably the African-American and Latino populations.
AB 420 is supported by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Los Angeles NAACP, Los Angeles Urban League, the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles, Common Cause, and the California League of Women Voters, among many others.
AB 420 will advance to the state Senate next. For a full listing of support or other information, please contact Tim Cromartie at (916) 319-2048 or Joan Scott at (213) 744-2111.