Senator Griffo ignores prison-based gerrymandering problems at home
by Aleks Kajstura, August 9, 2010
Brenda Wright, of Demos, writes that Senator Griffo ignores prison-based gerrymandering problems in his own backyard while criticizing state-wide reform.
To the editor,
Senator Griffo is ignoring a large elephant in the living room when he complains about the legislation recently passed in New York to count incarcerated persons as residents of their home community rather than as residents of the prison town. Although he casts the issue as pitting upstate against downstate [“Griffo Criticizes Phantom Population Law”], the elephant in the room is the huge distortion in the City of Rome itself caused by counting prison population as residents of the city. By pretending that incarcerated persons are really citizens of Rome, the City has created a true phantom district: almost half of the entire population in Ward 2 in Rome consists of incarcerated people who can’t vote. This means that an actual Rome voter living anywhere except Ward 2 has only half the representation in city government as a voter who happens to live next to the prison in Ward 2. It’s not an issue of upstate vs. downstate; it’s about correcting a distorted system that doesn’t benefit anyone except the few people living in the same district as a prison.
The New York Constitution says that a prison is not a residence for purposes of voting. The new law just brings New York’s redistricting practices in line with the state Constitution and common sense.
Brenda Wright is Director of the Democracy Program at Demos, a non-profit, non-partisan research and advocacy center.