State Ban On Prison-Based Gerrymandering Helps Ensure Equal Representation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org April 7, 2011 – Nine Republican state senators are among plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed this week challenging New York State’s recently enacted ban on prison-based gerrymandering – a practice that inflated the population of electoral districts with prisons by counting inmates as residents of those districts, rather than residents of the communities in which they lived prior to incarceration. The following is attributable to Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union: “The Legislature stood up for fairness and the democratic principle of one person, one vote by banning prison-based gerrymandering last year. “Counting incarcerated people as residents of counties in which a prison was located for purposes of establishing election districts inflated the political power of upstate, largely white rural prison communities, while diminishing the political power of the urban, black and Latino communities from which persons were sent to prison. “The interests of these ‘prisoners of the census’ were not represented by legislators in whose district a prison was located; but they provided the ‘body count’ required to maintain the electoral district and the political influence of those who lived there – outside of prison. “The new law restores rationality and fairness to the rules and procedures by which New York determines residency for electoral and voting purposes.”