A Clear Victory Against Prison-Based Gerrymandering

This week the plaintiffs in the “Little v. LATFOR” case officially withdrew their challenge to the 2010 New York law which requires the state to count incarcerated people as residents of their legal home addresses for state legislative redistricting purposes.  After a drawn-out litigation process, the  plaintiffs’ move means that, regardless of other flaws in New York’s new legislative districts, they no longer rest on the injustice of prison-based gerrymandering that has previously distorted fair representation in New York.

The legislation at issue, Part XX of chapter 57 of the Laws of 2010 (“Part XX”), mandates that incarcerated persons be allocated to their home residences for the purposes of drawing state legislative districts.  Prior to the enactment of Part XX, incarcerated persons were considered “residents” of their prisons, meaning that legislative districts with prisons were credited with the population of the people temporarily housed there --despite the fact that they had no voting rights and no real stake in the community.  Padding legislative districts with prison populations, a practice known as “prison-based gerrymandering,” artificially enhances the weight of a vote cast in those districts at the expense of all districts that do not contain a prison.