Livingston County, NY fixes prison-based gerrymandering problem

Thanks to the 2010 law that ended prison-based gerrymandering in NY, Livingston County's democracy will no longer be distorted by prison populations.

by Leah Sakala, March 26, 2012

One of the most dramatic cases of prison-based gerrymandering is about to be fixed.

Here’s what was wrong:

When Livingston County, New York drew new county legislative districts after the 2000 Census, all of the people incarcerated in the town of Groveland were used to make up a whopping 64% of the town’s political clout in county government. This was bad news for everyone who didn’t live in Groveland because it meant that every 4 people who live in the town with the prison had as much say in county government as 10 people who live elsewhere in Livingston County.

The Chair of the Livingston County legislature, who represents the town padded with the prison populations, told the New York Times that he doesn’t really represent the incarcerated people to whom he owes the bulk of his say in county affairs, explaining, “We don’t campaign; they don’t vote.”

Fast forward to today:

Thanks to the 2010 law that ended prison-based gerrymandering in New York, all Livingston County residents will enjoy equal access to the county legislature. This is because, as the Erie County Attorney General has affirmed, the law ending prison-based gerrymandering applies to both New York state legislative districts and and local government districts.

A recent Livingston County News article reports that now that the plaintiffs who sued to bring back prison-based gerrymandering have given up the case, the county will proceed with re-weighting the county voting system to reflect the people who actually call Livingston County home.

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