More than 14,000 of the almost 300,000 residents of Betty Little's state Senate district were prison inmates as of the 2000 census, and more than 9,000 of the 126,510 residents of Janet Duprey's 114th Assembly District.
When the lines are drawn again after the 2010 census, these incarcerated constituents will be counted in the communities that sent them to prison. If the prisoners in local prisons hold to the state averages, that means about half of them will be counted in New York City.
The law would mean that these districts and others that contain prisons would have to get bigger to have enough population. It would not directly affect how aid is apportioned, but opponents have expressed worries it would end up doing that by shifting clout away from upstate New York. Proponents have argued that prisoners should be counted toward the population of the communities they were a part of, rather than ones upstate where they can't vote.
Although some upstate Democrats in the Senate had said they opposed the proposal, it was tacked onto the $1.75-billion revenue bill that passed the Senate in a party line vote Tuesday night, with all the Democrats voting in favor and all the Republicans against.
The change won't affect the lines in local county legislatures - Franklin County already doesn't count prisoners when drawing up legislative districts, and Essex County excludes them from the population-based weighted vote on the Board of Supervisors.
About 7 percent of the 114th Assembly District's residents are prisoners. It remains to be seen how the district lines will be redrawn for the 2012 elections; Prisoners of the Census, an advocacy group that favors the recent law change, speculates on its website that North Elba and Wilmington, which had about 9,100 residents combined in 2000, could be added to the district. These are now part of Teresa Sayward's 113th Assembly District.
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