HARTFORD, CT – The Connecticut State Conference of the NAACP (NAACP CT) and the ACLU of Connecticut (ACLU CT) gathered at the State Capitol today in support of S.B. 753, legislation to abolish prison gerrymandering. A diverse coalition of legislators, community groups, and local residents called on legislative leaders to bring the bill, which was approved by the Government Affairs and Election Committee, to a floor vote. Joining civil rights advocates in calling for the bill’s passage were elected officials, including Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, House Speaker Matt Ritter, Senator Mae Flexer, and Senator Gary Winfield.
This legislative session is Connecticut’s final opportunity to abolish prison gerrymandering before the state begins its redistricting process to determine legislative and congressional maps for the next decade.
“This is the year you have to do it—when it is at the forefront of peoples’ mind and it is most relevant,” said Speaker Matt Ritter. “This is about dignity.”
“The momentum for ending prison gerrymandering in our state has been overwhelming. Now is the time to end this practice before Connecticut locks discrimination into our legislative maps for another decade,” said Corrie Betts, Criminal Justice Chair of the NAACP CT. “The Connecticut State Conference of the NAACP is grateful to the legislators who spoke out today in support of abolishing the racist practice of prison gerrymandering and who have supported the bill, as well as to our ally organizations and community groups. Senate President Pro Tempore Looney must bring S.B. 753 to a floor vote as soon as possible.”
Advocates argue that by counting incarcerated people where they are imprisoned for the purpose of redistricting—instead of their home communities—Connecticut denies incarcerated people meaningful representation. Prison gerrymandering inflates the power of the districts where prisons are located, which are predominantly white and rural, at the expense of districts where incarcerated people reside, which are predominantly Black, Latinx, and urban. Ten states have already enacted legislation to end this practice, including New York, California, and New Jersey.
“Connecticut has perpetuated the undemocratic harm of prison gerrymandering on our state’s Black and Brown communities for too long,” said Claudine Fox, Interim Public Policy and Advocacy Director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “It is now up to the Senate, and then the House, to step up and show their constituents that they support racial justice and fair voting rights by passing S.B. 753. As we approach the end of the legislative session, it is important that the General Assembly knows we are watching and will hold them accountable if they miss this rare opportunity to protect democracy in Connecticut.”
Senator Martin Looney similarly stressed the urgency of passing S.B. 753, “This bill is a priority this year. This is a matter of equity and justice. This is time sensitive. We must do this this year—when it counts—before reapportionment.”
The NAACP CT and ACLU CT have long supported ending prison gerrymandering, and in early March, both organizations launched a campaign to support S.B. 753. At a public hearing before the Government Affairs and Election Committee on March 10, dozens of advocates and stakeholders testified in support of the bill, without any testimony in opposition. The bill currently has 28 co-sponsors, including longtime champions such as Sen. Gary Winfield. Other elected officials and organizations across Connecticut have announced their support for legislation to end prison gerrymandering this session, including:
• Secretary of the State Denise W. Merrill
• Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden
• Campaign Legal Center
• Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT)
• Connecticut AFL-CIO
• Common Cause in Connecticut
• Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
• Connecticut State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition
• Connecticut Voices for Children
• Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
• Hispanic Federation
• Latino Justice PRLDEF
• League of Women Voters of Connecticut
• NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
• Prison Policy Initiative
• SEIU District 1199 NE
“Passing S.B. 753 would help ensure the constitutional promise of one person, one vote for all Connecticut residents,” said Helia Bidad, a law student intern with the Yale Rule of Law Clinic. “Prison gerrymandering is a legacy of the Three-Fifths Clause, and fundamental fairness demands it be abolished.”
NAACP CT and ACLU CT are represented by the Yale Law School Peter Gruber Rule of Law Clinic.