Caitlin Thompson is WNYC.org's executive editor.
GOP Leaders Strike Deal on Prisoner Redistricting
Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 04:00 PM
This article has been updated.
State GOP leaders have agreed to count more than 46,000 prisoners across New York state as residents in their home neighborhoods, instead of where they are incarcerated. The battle has serious implications for the state's redistricting efforts, drawing more weight to downstate areas from upstate counties where prisons are located.
After the initial court decision, Republican Senate leaders appealed, saying the decision to count prisoners in the districts they originate is "in conflict with the [constitutional] command that the Census is controlling by creating a lesser inclusive Census for reapportionment," and the process was essentially stalled for weeks as both sides haggled over how to count the population. The agreement reached Thursday falls short of counting all 58,000 inmates.
Mike Murphy, Senate Democratic spokesman was happy the Republicans agreed to a deal:
"For too long the Senate Republicans have used this process as an incumbent protection program, this must end immediately," he said. "Anything less than truly independent redistricting is another broken promise and a return to the same old Albany ways."
(We noted here this morning, independent redistricting is not always a good thing, as California illustrates.)
Democratic Assemblyman John McEneny says he is glad to have the "problem rectified," and says the decision will result in a "major territorial difference" for sparsely populated upstate counties. Initially there had been a disagreement between Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats on the total number of prisoners that could be counted. The Senate numbers were actually higher.
"We've managed to cut down the number of not counted considerably," McEneny said.
McEneny says he's hoping prospective redistricting maps will be out the first week of January.