Bill would ensure the Census Bureau counts people in prison as residents of their home communities

DENVER, CO — The Colorado Accurate Residence for Redistricting Act, sponsored by Representatives James Coleman and Kerry Tipper, today passed the House by a vote of 38-23. The bill would count people in prison as residents of their home communities for the purpose of state redistricting, ending the practice of counting those individuals as residents of the localities where the corrections facilities are.

“Today, the House voted in favor of democratic representation and a more just count,” said Rep. Tipper (D-Lakewood). “I’m thankful for my colleagues who joined Rep. Coleman and I in supporting this legislation. Accurate redistricting is essential for the health of our democracy, and this bill will help ensure that districts are drawn in a way that reflects the Colorado value of fair representation.”

“An accurate census count and fair district maps are good for our democracy and good for Colorado,” said Rep. Coleman (D-Denver). “Coloradans want a more just political system, and that’s what we’ve set out to do. I’m pleased that the House has approved this commonsense bill.”

HB20-1010 would, for purposes of census redistricting counts, reassign prisoners in correctional facilities to their last known residence in Colorado prior to incarceration. Only in the instance that a prisoner does not have a Colorado address, do they get counted in the locality where the prison is located. Prisoners are currently assigned to voting districts based on where they are incarcerated instead of in the communities where their lives are rooted, even though they cannot vote while in prison. This bill would not have an effect on how the census guides the distribution of federal funds in Colorado.

Per the Colorado Constitution—which declares that a prison cell is not a residence—people in prison are legal constituents of their home address representatives and not the correctional facility where they have been placed. Additionally, the average length of stay in Colorado prisons is three years, while redistricting guidelines last an entire decade. Other states including Maryland, New York, Washington, Delaware and California have passed legislation to address prison gerrymandering. 

HB20-1010 was approved by the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee on January 30 and passed the House on second reading yesterday. It now heads to the Senate for introduction in that chamber.

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