In terms of redistricting, where should prisoners be counted?

August 27 – With the census coming out every ten years, so does redistricting – or the way we change the electoral districts that determine who represents us.

When populations grow or change, so should the representation.

The thing is, the rules for redistricting vary by state.

PA state legislative district boundaries are determined by the Independent Districting Commission, which is a group that has appointed members from the Governor and majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate. It’s a mixed group. It’s not controlled by any one party. That group draws those districts.

Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts for the country (for Representatives like Congressman John Joyce) are drawn by a state statute. It’s something that is drafted by the House and Senate, passed by the House and Senate and ultimately signed by the Governor.

The Independent Districting Commission is right now dominated by Democrats because we have a Democratic governor and his appointees are on that, so it skews slightly Democratic.

The Independent Districting Commission made the decision to do something a bit unusual. In the past prisoners were counted where they are incarcerated – that’s where they live, so they went onto that district map.

Now they’re saying they want to count them where they lived last before they went to prison. These are people that have been convicted and have been sent to a state prison.

Schemel said, “What this effectively does, we see statistically most of the people that are in our state prisons come from urban areas. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, cities. So what this does is it tends to bump up the population of cities and it tends to drive down the population of rural areas which is where our state prisons are. It is a very partisan effort. I think I’m part of Democrats to try to make that population shift so that their areas have greater population and therefore they would get greater representation in Congress. The rural areas are saying look, hold on a second, people are incarcerated, they’re in our district…they’re using our utilities and that’s why we’ve always counted them there. They’re residents of that area. Interestingly, the same commission looks at college students differently. They say oh a college student is going to be counted where they go to college and not where they live. Now if you think about the difference between a college student and a prisoner, a prisoner is incarcerated. They don’t go back in the summer and over Christmas and so forth. I mean that is their permanent address for the duration of their time. A college student on the other hand goes back and forth and once again, they are only in that college town for a limited period of time.”

Jansen said, “That’s hypocrisy. I worry because we’re so caught up in this critical theory nonsense because they’ll talk about the skin color of people in prison. I guess they’re not worried about the skin color of people on college campuses. That to me, should not be the basis of us making these decisions, but I’m afraid more and more that is creeping in.”

“Yeah, I think that it is,” Schemel confirmed.