Equal representation coming to Hudson, NY
The end of prison-based gerrymandering in New York will finally mean equal representation for the residents Hudson, NY.
by Aleks Kajstura, August 13, 2010
When New York passed a law ending prison-based gerrymandering, the residents of Hudson, NY are among those who will now have the representation in their city government based on the principle of “one person, one vote.”
Hudson, which about 6,500 people call home, uses weighted voting on its city council. This means that each Alderman elected to the council get a number of votes proportional the number of people she represents.
The city is divided into 5 wards, each ward elects 2 Aldermen to the council to represent its residents. Ward 3, however, contains the Hudson Correctional Facility. As a result, the two Aldermen from Ward 3 have more voting power on the council than their actual number of constituents warrants. With this new change in the law, every resident of Hudson will get equal representation in government.
The region’s paper, The Register Star, has a great piece by Lindsay Suchow focusing on how the state-wide law will bring equal representation to Hudson.
“It will put more equal weight on the wards — I think it’s a good move,” [Alderwoman Ellen Thurston, D-Third Ward] said. “When the new census figures are in, we’re going to need to refigure the wards anyway. ”
Could you explain by what mechanism this new State law will change the calculations for the City of Hudson?
Hudson’s Charter pegs weighted votes to the most recent Federal Census. At the moment, pending the 2010 Census being finalized, those votes are thus weighted according to the 2000 Census.
As far as I know, the 2010 Census will continue to count the prisoners in the Hudson Correctional Facility as Hudson residents. To my knowledge, the State cannot force the Federal government to alter its Census methods.
The confusing part, then, is how (or whether) the State Law would interact with the City Charter, if the Census continues to count prisoners the same way as before.
Perhaps I’m missing something here; any information and clarification would be much appreciated.
You are absolutely right – the state cannot force the Census Bureau to change their methodology, but the federal government also does not require that the states use Census data for redistricting. New York chose to adjust the Census’s rough population counts to better reflect the actual populations of the state in representative government.
The new law will change the way weighted votes are determined in Hudson because the law also amends New York’s home rule law. The home rule law now requires all municipalities, whether they have charters or not, to use the adjusted population data in apportioning their legislature. In Hudson, the weight of the votes of Aldermen on the Common Council will have to be based on the corrected population data provided by the state.