NY Lawmakers Strike Deal on Redistricting Count

Most of NY's prison inmates will be counted as potential voters back in their home neighborhoods rather than their prisons, most of which are in upstate Republican areas

By Michael Gormley
|  Thursday, Dec 22, 2011  |  Updated 5:55 PM EDT
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NY Lawmakers Strike Deal on Redistricting Count

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Senate and Republican leaders have struck a deal to count 46,043 of the state's 58,000 prison inmates as potential voters back in their home neighborhoods for the purpose of redrawing election districts, an assemblyman said Thursday.

John McEneny, an Albany Democrat, said the deal struck in the last 48 hours with the Senate is the result of extensive computer analysis and negotiation over which prisoners could be clearly identified with their previous voting districts.

State Sen. Michael Nozzolio, a Finger Lakes Republican, said the review was exhaustive "to count as many as absolutely possible to count."

A court ruled earlier this month in a case brought by GOP senators that prisoners can be counted in their last home districts, mostly in Democratic New York City, rather than their prisons, most of which are in upstate Republican areas. But the impact wasn't clear until this deal.

The agreement shifts some political power to urban Democratic districts from sparsely populated upstate areas.

Details of which districts the prisoners will fall into won't be clear until next week, said McEneny, the Assembly's point person on redistricting.

Prisoners weren't counted if records couldn't identify the specific election district they lived in last, McEneny said.

The impact will be seen when state Senate and Assembly districts are drawn. The new count of prisoners will strengthen the Democratic voter advantage in some districts or potentially result in an added downstate or urban Democratic seat in the Legislature.

"That cloud has been lifted," McEneny told The Associated Press.

Nozzolio said lawmakers had to eliminate federal prisoners and out-of-state prisoners, then use sometimes sketchy data from prison intakes to trace inmates to a home district. That was compounded by the number of previously homeless prisoners.

He said the impact on Republican districts in the state where Democratic voters already hold a nearly 2:1 advantage won't be known until further computer analysis is done next week.

He said new regulations or a law may be necessary so that prisons take the same kind of address and racial data that the U.S. Census Bureau collects. One of the goals of redistricting is to make sure districts with large racial minority populations are represented in the Legislature and Congress.

Congressional districts won't be affected.

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