The Voters of Cranston, Rhode Island, Deserve to be Treated Equally

Imagine that you were treated as three-fourths of a person in every aspect of your daily life. When you want to binge-watch House of Cards on Netflix, you're only allowed to watch the first three-fourths of the season. When you buy a cup of Starbucks coffee, you get three-fourths of a cup. When you get a paycheck, you're paid three-fourths of what your coworkers are paid. And when you go into the polling booth to cast your vote, your vote is only counted as three-fourths of a vote.

While the above illustrations are fictional, the last one is a reality for most of the voters in Cranston, Rhode Island. Under the U.S. Constitution, voting districts must be drawn in such a way so that each district has roughly the same number of constituents, giving each voter an equal say in state and local representation. In Cranston, elected officials have recently redrawn their six voting districts (known as wards) so that about 13,000 to 14,000 people are in each ward. Each ward can elect one representative to the City Council and one representative to the local school board.

However, in Ward 6, over 3,000 people—25 percent of the population attributed to that ward—are actually people who are incarcerated, the vast majority of whom aren't from Cranston, let alone "residents" of Ward 6, and cannot vote in local elections. No one running for office in Ward 6 is attempting to get the votes of these incarcerated individuals. None of these detainees are attending neighborhood garage sales in Ward 6, attending PTA meetings in Ward 6 schools, or shopping at the local Ward 6 grocery store. In no sense would anyone consider them voting "constituents" of Ward 6.

Elected officials from Ward 6 therefore only represent about 10,000 actual constituents, and yet have equal say in important local matters with elected officials who represent 13-14,000 constituents from each of the other five wards. In other words, when Cranston residents from Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 cast their votes in local elections, their votes are now worth only three-fourths of the same vote cast by someone from Ward 6. Cranston refused to follow the example of many other municipalities who don't count incarcerated people as if they are actual residents of the district where the prison happens to be located.

As a result, Cranston voters outside of Ward 6—Karen Davidson, Debbie Flitman, Eugene Perry, and Sylvia Weber—along with the ACLU of Rhode Island, have filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce the basic principle of democratic equality under the U.S. Constitution. They are represented by the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Demos, the Prison Policy Initiative, and Lynette Labinger of Roney & Labinger LLP.

There is no three-fourths solution here. Only when each Cranston voter is entitled to have each vote counted fully can basic democracy be restored to the city of Cranston, Rhode Island. Read more about the lawsuit.

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Anonymous

I don't HAVE to imagine that. I AM treated like that in most of the examples given, including being paid less, I guess b/c I have one LESS leg. They must be getting paid commensurate with their THIRD leg, which is so all-out important to them that paying more just b/c they have it wouldn't surprise me in the LEAST.
But I've never BEEN incarcerated b/c I always tried to do the right thing and NOT become jailed for losing control of my temper, but it doesn't make a damn bit of difference because I'm treated as HALF a person for having a disability that a goon with a gun (he called himSELF a "death angel with a gun," I'll settle for goon) gave me when he shot me three times in the back and technically speaking, killed me two times. But I was brought back from it both times, not unfortunately without significant damage in terms of head trauma.
Not to mention physical trauma to both areas that were effected by the shooting: the lungs and the back. The one in the back causing more limitations than the one in the lungs, b/c they could find medicine to take care of it. Not for the back, which is considered a NONemergency area and so nobody will justify paying for it unless I pay for it myself, which I can't b/c I only have part-time work. You want to talk about Catch-22, THAT'S Catch-22.
And all this because of something somebody ELSE did to me. Someone who, to this day, is STILL incarcerated - but not without reason, that's for damn sure. Some people MIGHT be incarcerated for no reason but he's NOT one of them. He's no immigrant either. He's not even a minority. He's white as Caspar the friendly ghost with no friendliness to recommend him.
He's actually incarcerated for his SECOND crime involving gun violence, not his first, and that's another reason it's taking them so long to give him Parole. That and his untamed mouth, that is. The one that can't stay closed at his Parole hearings.

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