Prisoners are currently counted as residents of the town where the prison is located –
This has major affects concerning voting districts and state funding.
(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) today announced that she will introduce an Assembly Resolution urging the U.S. Census Bureau to change the way it counts prisoners for the next decennial census.
The U.S. Census currently counts prisoners as residents of the municipality that the prison is housed in. Since the U.S. Census is the population metric used in the process of drawing voting districts and distributing state funding to the counties, the location where prisoners are designated as residents has a profound impact on fair representation and fair allocation of resources throughout the state.
“The way that prisoners are counted by the census needs to be changed,” stated Quijano. “When prisoners are counted as residents of their prisons then our voting districts and state funding formulas are no longer proportionate to our true populations. This is not right and it’s not in line with the values I have been sent to Trenton to defend.”
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit and non-partisan organization, “The way the Census Bureau counts people in prison creates significant problems for democracy and for our nation’s future. It leads to a dramatic distortion of representation at local and state levels, and creates an inaccurate picture of community populations for research and planning purposes.”
When the ACLU of New Jersey testified on similar legislation in 2014, they stated, “By way of illustration, Cumberland County is home to three large prisons, which account for almost five percent of the total county population. By counting prisoners in Cumberland’s population, we significantly and artificially inflate the voting power of residents living in Cumberland County. Camden and Essex counties each house a prison, but the number of residents from those counties who wind up in prison is far greater than the number of prisoners they receive. As a result, the voting power in those counties is artificially diluted.”
The U.S. Census Bureau is taking written comments regarding the proposed 2020 Census Residence Rule and Residence Situations through September 1.
Last week, Quijano sent a letter to the U.S. Census Bureau asking them to make this change. Supporters should send their comments by September 1 to Karen Humes, Chief, Population Division at POP.2020.Residence.Rule@census.gov.