Should prisoners be counted for voting purposes?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – ​A federal court in the state Capitol is considering what could be a landmark case when it comes to who represents you in local government. The case boils down to whether it’s fair to count state prisoners when creating local districts.

The county told the judge that if he rules against them, they may not be able to appeal the decision.

Rural Jefferson County has five county commission districts, each with 2,900 residents. One of the districts includes a state prison.

There are about 1,200 inmates at the prison. They make up about 43 percent of the people who live in the county commission district. People in the other four districts said it isn’t fair.

Whether or not to count local prisoners is left up to the local governments. The U.S. Supreme Court has said it’s OK to count prisoners as long as they don’t make up more than 10 percent of the population.

Residents in the county commission district, along with the ACLU and the Florida Justice Institute, are suing to have the prisoners excluded.

”What happens (when the inmates are counted) is they dilute the voting impact of the people in the other four districts of Jefferson County,” said Randall Berg, with Florida Justice Institute.

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