Speed Reads


New Washington state law bans prison-based gerrymandering

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, signed a bill on Tuesday that could prove crucial in the nation's gerrymandering debate going forward.

The bill effectively ends what is known as "prison gerrymandering," in Washington, making the Evergreen State the fifth to do so. Prison gerrymandering occurs when a state accounts for inmates in state prisons in their prisons' districts rather than their home communities.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Prison Policy Initiative explained the decision's logic by pointing out that while all districts send people to prison, not all districts have prisons, which leads to "extra representation" for districts that do have prisons. Aleks Kajstura, the Legal Director of the Prison Policy Initiative said the law "offers Washington voters a fairer data set on which future districts will be drawn."

Washington joins California, Delaware, New York, and Maryland as the only states to expressly outlaw prison gerrymandering at the state-wide level, though a few others have measures in place at the local level.