Law counting prisoners towards population in home community could redraw districts in Dems favor

Michael Gianaris

September 06, 2011

LATFOR should use the results of the Assembly's study as they continue the redistricting process. The Daily News wrote about the study on how to count prisoners for purposes of redistricting.

ALBANY - Prisoners in New York can't vote, but they may decide which party controls the state Senate next year.

A new law now requiring prisoners to be counted toward the population of their home community - rather than where they are serving time - could dramatically alter the political landscape of more than a dozen upstate districts.

That's because state officials will redraw legislative and congressional districts based on 2010 Census Bureau population figures in time for the 2012 elections.

And prisons disproportionately dot upstate New York - while the majority of inmates committed their crimes in urban areas.

The Daily News has learned Assembly Democrats will unveil a study today showing that 12 upstate GOP Senate districts and one suburban Democratic district will each lose at least 1,000 people without the inclusion of inmates at local prisons.

"The chips fall whatever way they do," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said.

Silver defended the new prison-counting law and denied it was passed for partisan purposes last year when Democrats controlled the Senate and the Assembly. Republicans have since retaken a 32-30 advantage.

"These are the facts according to the law and not done for political partisan advantage at all," Silver insisted. "It impacts some of our closer [Democratic seats] upstate negatively."

The Senate GOP has sued to strike down the new law as unconstitutional.

"Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, we're absolutely confident that New Yorkers will vote to keep Republicans in the Senate majority in 2012," GOP Senate spokesman Scott Reif said.

"Why would anyone want to return to the scandals, overspending and high taxes Senate Democrats were known for?" he added.

But with each Senate district required to have at least 312,550 people, political pros say the number of districts in typically conservative rural areas - which have already been hit by population losses - could shrink dramatically.

Conversely, the number of districts would grow near urban centers, like New York City, which are dominated by Democrats.

Read the full article here.