Disenfranchised urban prisoners are not rural constituents

by Peter Wagner, November 24, 2003

map showing New York Assembly District 114 represented by Chris Ortloff. The map shows the borders of the district, its location in the north east corner of the state and the location of the prisons in the district

Counting urban prisoners as rural residents turns the entire idea that districts should be of equal population on its head. In three New York Senate districts, and 10 Assembly districts, at least 2% of the “constituents” are prisoners. The district of upstate Republican Chris Ortloff has the highest percentage of prisoners in the legislature: 6.99%.

The population to be “represented” by Assemblyman Ortloff includes 5,594 Black adults, 82.6% of who are barred by law from ever voting for or against him. By the time these prisoners complete their sentences and are again allowed to vote, they will be back home in a different district.

The prisoners should never have been counted locally for the same reason vacationers are not counted locally: they are only there temporarily.

Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in New York

How prison counts change district lines. A graphical explanation using Assemblyman Chris Otloff’s district 114 as the example

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  • Feb 21, 2019:
    Volunteer Attorney Stephen Raher will be presenting his paper “The Company Store and the Literally Captive Market: Consumer Law in Prisons and Jails” at the Consumer Law Conference at Berkeley Law School. The paper will be presented and discussed at 4:00pm.

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