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North Country Public Radio identifies the biggest impact of end to prison-based gerrymandering

by Peter Wagner, August 6, 2010

David Sommerstein on North Country Public Radio discusses the impact of New York’s new law ending prison-based gerrymandering.

Notably, Senator Aubertine explains why, although he’s not a proponent, he voted for the budget bill that included the elimination of prison-based gerrymandering. He explains that state and federal funding will not be affected. He goes on to say that 3,000 incarcerated people in his a district of 300,000 people amounts to “about 1%” and a very little impact.

Of course, the impact will be higher in the 45th Senate district which contains more prisons than any other district.

But the story singles out for “the biggest impact” two North Country counties, St. Lawrence and Jefferson, which were the only ones in the region that included the prison populations when drawing their legislative districts. All other counties in the region rejected the Census counts. St. Lawrence County used to exclude the prison populations but reversed course in a bitter partisan battle after the last Census.

In fact, one county district in St. Lawrence is 25% incarcerated. That’s a problem, says long-time reform advocate, St. Lawrence County Legislator Tedra Cobb. Leaving prisoners out of the districts is simple democracy. Districts should be based on equal numbers of community residents, and the people in the prisons are not a part of St. Lawrence County.

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