Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More News from Albany

An article in the New York Times reporting that the New York State budget had finally passed--125 days late--contained this information toward the end:

Lawmakers also passed a controversial measure requiring that prisoners be counted as residents not of the mostly upstate prisons where they reside, but of the areas where they lived before they were incarcerated. This effort had been fiercely resisted by Republicans, because of the implications the move could have as legislative districts are redrawn by the Legislature.

Democrats had championed the measure. “This is an issue of fundamental fairness, and it will empower poor communities because their population will reflect those prisoners,” said Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, a Manhattan Democrat running for attorney general. “If other states follow us, it would represent a major shift of political power back to these poor urban communities.”
But what about our poor urban community? The result would be a population loss of an estimated 600.

And the implications for our legislative districts? Since the Hudson Correctional Facility is located in the Third Ward, it would reduce the weighted votes of the Third Ward aldermen. The votes of Aldermen Ellen Thurston and Chris Wagoner now each represent 266 toward the 1,011 needed for a simple majority. The only votes on the Common Council more powerful than theirs are those cast by Fifth Ward aldermen Robert Donahue and Richard Goetz, whose votes weigh in at 278 each.


  1. It's not clear whether this bill will apply to Hudson districts; I tend to think it doesn't.

    The City Charter states that weighted votes depend on the most recently-available Census, and the Census counts people in prisons the "old" way:

    "The apportionment of the voting strength of the members of the Common Council shall be determined by the 2000 federal census in the City of Hudson until the next decennial federal census, in which event the voting strength shall be changed, if necessary, to conform to such decennial federal census; excepting, however, should there be proposed an official special county census subsequent to such federal decennial census, the Common Council may effect a reapportionment which shall be in conformity with such official county census and such then applicable provisions of law."

    The State Legislature bill would appear to me to only apply to those State Senate and Assembly districts and the City Charter as it stands relies on a different calculus.

  2. I believe that Sam is correct. This would only affect State Legislative seats. It is also my understanding that this will not affect state aid to municipalities. It is purely for redistricting.

  3. Thank you, Sam and Victor! If the City Charter says the weighted vote is determined by the census, and the census is still counting the inmates at the Hudson Correctional Facility as residing in Hudson, then it would take a charter change--requiring a referendum--to make this change in Hudson's wards.

    Still, situations like these continue to argue for redrawing the wards in Hudson so that every alderman's vote carries the same weight.

  4. Now that Sam and Victor have added their two cents, aint no use us locals say anything is there? since when do we lobby for prisoners to count as ward folk?

  5. Carol,

    The intent of the bill was to apply to county and municipal governments, for exactly the reason you cite. We'll have to look in to this further.

    13 NY counties that contain prisons already ignore the prison population when districting, but the ones that include the prisons have very serious one-person-one-vote issues caused by the prison. (And the impact in the cities of Rome and Elmira is significant as well.)