Census 2010: Where Should Prisoners Be Counted?
New York Democrats have issued a proposal to count prisoners in their hometowns, rather than where they are incarcerated, in this year’s census. Why? New York’s state prisons tend to be located in (Republican-heavy) upstate districts, although the prisoners themselves mostly come from (largely Democratic) cities. Democrats charge that Republicans rely on the inmate population to inflate the numbers in their legislative districts, sapping power from the urban, poor communities that the inmates hail from. Republicans counter that the Democrats are just using the issue as a ploy to reduce GOP power, and argue that towns with prisons should have extra representation since they incur extra police and health care costs. (More coverage here.)
If the bill passes, New York will be the first state in the nation to count prisoners in their home districts. Rev. Al Sharpton is among the bill’s supporters:
He said the prison population is used to boost up districts where the representatives vote against the interests of the people who are incarcerated, such as delaying action to repeal the decades-old strict drug sentencing laws. Democrats repealed much of the Rockefeller-era drug laws last year.
“This is a real civil-rights issue, where you use people’s bodies to count against their interests. There’s nothing more blatant than that,” he said.