More clout

Great Falls Tribune (Montana)
January 1, 2005

We're not saying anything criminal happened in the 2004 election, in Lake County or anywhere else, but that doesn't mean criminals didn't have an effect.

Comes now the Prison Policy Initiative, a national think tank focused on America's "incarceration policies," pointing out that at least one legislative district in Powell County is more tightly drawn than it should be because of the presence of the Montana State Prison.

Theoretically, at least, that gives individual voters there more clout than residents of other districts in Montana, where each elected House member represents a little more than 9,000 residents.

In House District 85, that number includes 1,308 voting-age residents who couldn't vote if they wanted to, because they're felons, in prison, and probably from somewhere else.

"The district is almost 15 percent prisoners, a higher figure than in any other state legislative district yet discovered in the United States," PPI reports.

Because of the low numbers involved, it's not any kind of crisis or scandal, but it probably is worth re-examining before the 2010 Census-based reapportionment repeats the problem.

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  • May 15, 2018:
    Our Policy Analyst Lucius Couloute will be at the LEDA Summit on Race and Inclusion in Holland, Michigan, presenting his research on the challenges and disadvantages people face when they are released from prison. Tickets are available on LEDA’s website.

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