“One-person, one-vote” is a fundamental principle of democracy. In practice, however, vote distribution among population groups is often less than equal. Even in established democracies, prison malapportionment—the distribution of legislative seats by counting incarcerated people in their prisons’ districts rather than their home districts—is one example of a practice that distorts voter representation. Prison malapportionment allows less populous districts that house prisons to maximize their voting power at the expense of more densely populated districts from which many incarcerated people previously lived. While there has been significant scholarship on the causes and effects of prison malapportionment, there is no standard method for quantifying the level of distortion that results from the phenomenon. As such, no comparative study of prison malapportionment exists in the international context.

This Article presents a method to measure malapportionment that isolates the deviation from “one-person, one-vote” that arises specifically from prison malapportionment. This formula, “PMAL,” facilitates comparative analysis of prison malapportionment among various jurisdictions. It also aids in predicting and evaluating the success of reform efforts.

Included in

Election Law Commons