They May Be Unaware, But Inmates Wield Political Power in NY


More than 6 in 10 people who live in the western New York town of Groveland have probably never heard of their representative on the Livingston County Board of Supervisors, James C. Merrick. They certainly have never voted for him. But because of them, Merrick wields more than twice the voting power that he otherwise would on the Livingston County Board of Supervisors, reports the New York Times. That's because in the weighted voting system that the board uses to apportion political power, Livingston County counts Groveland's 2,100 state prison inmates as town residents, even though virtually all of them have addresses elsewhere and would leave town at the first opportunity. But under the system, the inmates make up about 62 percent of Groveland's 3,500 people.

A new study has found that 15 counties in New York, as well as the five that make up New York City, include inmate populations when they redistrict or apportion votes in local legislative bodies. In five of those counties, the study concluded, the inmate population was large enough in one or more districts to dilute the political power of residents in the others. Thirteen counties that have prisons exclude inmates when drawing district lines.


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