Little v. LATFOR

Little v. LATFOR

February 24, 2012
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In 2010, New York passed a law mandating that incarcerated persons be counted at their home residences for the purposes of drawing state legislative districts. Prior to the legislation’s enactment, they were counted at the prisons, meaning that legislative districts with prisons were credited with the population of the disenfranchised people temporarily housed there.  Padding legislative districts with prison populations, a practice known as “prison-based gerrymandering,” artificially enhanced the weight of a vote cast in those districts at the expense of all districts that did not contain a prison.
     
In New York, the effects of prison-based gerrymandering are most visible in rural upstate communities.  For example, forty percent of an Oneida County legislative district is incarcerated, and 50 percent of a Rome City Council ward is incarcerated, giving the people who live next to the prisons more influence than people in other districts or wards.  In addition, seven of the current New York State Senate districts meet minimum population requirements only by claiming incarcerated people as residents.
 
Though the legislation was crafted to bring consistency and fairness to redistricting in New York, a group of plaintiffs led by State Senator Elizabeth Little brought a legal action entitled “Little v. LATFOR” challenging the law.  Sen. Little’s lawsuit seeks to have the new legislation struck down, the effect of which would require legislative districts – most notably her own, which contains 12,000 incarcerated persons – to include prison populations in their apportionment counts.
 
Demos, along with a coalition of partners including the Center for Law and Social Justice, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Prison Policy Initiative and the Brennan Center joined together in seeking to defend the new law. The defendants maintain that a roll-back to the previous law would unfairly inflate districts with prisons and violate the New York State Constitution.
 

Case History:

  • New York Court of Appeals Order, Little V. LATFOR, 2/14/11 PDF
  • Intervenors-Respondents Brief Filed in New York Court of Appeals, Little v. LATFOR, 12/23/11 PDF
  • Reply in Support of Intervenors-Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and In Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, 9/14/11 PDF
  • Intervenors-Defendants’ Memo in Support of Summary Judgment and in Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, 8/18/11 PDF
  • Proposed Intervenors' Reply to Memo in Support of Motion to Intervene, 7/7/11 PDF
  • Proposed Intervenors Memo in Support of Proposed Intervenor-Defendants' Motion to Intervene, 5/17/11 PDF