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Changing prisoner count could boost cities’ political power

November 28, 2021 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s urban centers could gain more political power under a new state policy that changes how prisoners are counted when it comes to drawing maps for congressional and legislative districts.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Sunday that the new policy counts inmates at their last known address instead of the prison’s location.

The change could boost representation in cities such as Norfolk and Richmond. Declines are expected in the rural areas where many prisons are located.

Political boundaries are redrawn every 10 years and are based off of U.S. Census numbers. The Virginia Supreme Court has been tasked with redistricting after the state’s new redistricting commission imploded with an impasse along partisan lines.

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Supporters of the new policy say that counting inmates at their prison addresses inflates the influence of an area surrounding a correctional facility and diminishes the sway of communities from which an inmate came.

Opponents say the new policy politically weakens Virginia’s rural areas and Republican voting strength.