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Arizona Lawmakers Make The Case For And Against Counting Inmates As Residents In Census

By Mark Brodie, Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - 12:49pm
Updated: Friday, October 23, 2020 - 1:39pm

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Counting for the 2020 U.S. Census has ended, and once the numbers come out, work will get underway on drawing new legislative and congressional district maps in Arizona and around the country. But some critics argue certain communities will benefit from artificially higher population counts — and the additional federal money and political clout that comes with that — because those communities are home to prisons.

For the purposes of the census, people are generally counted where they are living at that time, and for people who are incarcerated, that means the prison where they are, rather than where they lived before.

A handful of states have passed laws banning prisoners from being counted for redistricting purposes, but Arizona is not one of them.

The Show spoke with state Rep. T.J. Shope, a Republican representing Pinal County, which is home to several correctional facilities, about why he thinks it makes sense for prisoners housed in Pinal County to be counted as residents there.

T.J. Shope
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
T.J. Shope

But Democratic state Sen. Martin Quezada takes the opposite view.

Quezada, in fact, sponsored a bill last session that aimed to force the state’s redistricting commission to count prisoners as residents where they lived before they went to prison. That would change things, at least, when drawing new legislative and congressional districts.

The bill didn’t get anywhere then, but, he told The Show he plans to keep the issue alive.

Arizona Sen. Martin Quezada
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Arizona Sen. Martin Quezada in July 2018.

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