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Politics & Government

City of Wilmington changes where inmates are counted for this year's redistricting

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Sophia Schmidt
/
Delaware Public Media
Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington's 3rd councilmanic district

The City’s Redistricting Committee, made up of City Council members, discussed proposals for redrawing their district lines late last week using new population data from the 2020 Census. 

 

The committee also passed a motion to count inmates at their last known residence, rather than at their correctional facility, in line with state law eliminating so-called “prison gerrymandering” for General Assembly districts. 

The move effectively distributes most of the more than 1,200 inmates at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in the 3rd district among the other districts. 

Councilwoman Shané Darby is also sponsoring an ordinance that would make the change permanent for future redistrictings. 

“This is a movement happening across the country,” she said. “Counting prisoners on location distorts political representation, where they’re not a part of the population and have no representation.”

City code requires each district to be as close to equal in population as possible. Without the population of Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, District 3 is significantly under the average, while District 4 is significantly over. 

District 5 Councilwoman Bregetta Fields was among the council members who drew up proposals for Thursday’s meeting. She said she’s focused on keeping communities together. 

“One side of West Street is Quaker Hill and then the other side of West Street is Quaker Hill as well, so it was no need to keep that divided when I can put all of those people into one particular district instead of having it separated,” she said while presenting one of her proposals. 

Darby, who represents the 2nd district, echoed that sentiment, pointing to communities such as East Side and North Market Street.

“Divided communities, divided streets, do not get the representation that they need, when it comes to development, when it comes to having a political voice or leverage,” she said.

Councilwoman Michelle Harlee, who represents District 4, countered that having two council members represent the same community if it’s split between two districts can be better for residents. 

The Redistricting Committee plans to meet late next month and in November—and will post any additional meeting dates online. It must finish its work by February.

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