Prison doubles the clout of one Rome NY City Council ward

A prison doubles one city councilor's clout in Rome NY; and he expresses interest in fixing that unfair enhancement of his political influence.

by Peter Wagner, February 19, 2010

In Rome, New York, half of the 2nd City Council ward is incarcerated, giving the actual residents of the ward twice as much influence as residents from other wards.

The Prison Policy Initiative did the research [PDF], but the exciting part to me is what the councilor from the Second Ward told Jennifer Fusco of the Utica Observer-Dispatch:

As for looking at such a change in Rome, Councilor John Mortise, R-2, said he’s open to the possibility, but wants to learn more about it.

“I don’t foresee a problem, but I’d like to do my research on it,” he said.

Including prison populations in the city council wards was surely not a deliberate attempt to distort democracy. I doubt people noticed the prison at the time or knew that it was possible to do something else. It happened. The problem was exposed and solutions proposed. And now the councilor who benefited the most from the unfairly drawn wards wants to investigate further and fix it. I call that a good day for democracy.

Too often politics are more adversarial than they need to be, but every now and again you see an example where dedication to the idea of democracy trumps dedication to self. And when a society has enough leaders who put the group first, and can set up fair ways for all citizens to make decisions, it should find that solving big problems isn’t so overwhelming after all.

See the story:1/2 of Rome ward’s residents are prisoners: Group says inmates should be excluded when drawing district boundaries by Jennifer Fusco, Utica Observer-Dispatch Feb 18, 2010.

2 responses:

  1. […] Democracy is not a zero sum game, and when the data that democracy depends on is flawed, even those who benefit in one way lose in another. The residents of some state senate districts, for example, get extra representation when their leaders claim incarcerated people as residents; but they often suffer in local government. For example, most of the residents of Rome New York have less access to city government than they should, because half of one city council district is incarcerated people who are not from Rome. […]

  2. Jeff Reichert: What Is Prison-Based Gerrymandering? | says:

    […] stories out of the rural New York cities of Rome and Hudson as well as Oneida County all feature elected officials expressing a willingness to stop […]

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