New York could become the first state where prisoners are not considered residents of the district where they are incarcerated for purposes of determining the size of legislative districts, reports the New York Times. New York legislators are squabbling over the home addresses of the state's 58,378 inmates as they anticipate how the 2010 census will reshape the electoral map.
Democrats are proposing that the state would have to count prisoners as residents of their last known address rather than counting them where they are held, a practice that has increased the population of upstate districts, where Republican voters predominate. Supporters of the change have framed the issue as a way to prevent the disenfranchisement of poor, mostly minority communities. “The present rule takes people who come from and return to poor or black and Latino communities and transfers their value for reapportionment purposes to rural upstate districts that really have nothing to do with them,” said Sen. Eric Schneiderman, a Manhattan Democrat. Republicans say that would unfairly change the way one group is counted without changing how other transient groups, like university students and military families, are counted.