Common Cause Urges Court to Recognize Prisoners in Prior Residence for Redistricting

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Susan Lerner

October 4, 2011


Common Cause Urges Court to Recognize Prisoners in Prior Residence for Redistricting

Calls Demographic Shifts Far More Significant for Upstate Communities

In response to today’s opening arguments in Little vs. LATFOR, the landmark case to decide whether to count prisoners at their prior residence or county of incarceration, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY released the following statement:

“Using prisoners to artificially inflate districts that can’t retain actual residents and voters is pernicious. In order to ensure adequate representation, the democratic process depends upon an honest accounting of our communities. The dramatic changes that New Yorkers will see in where district lines are drawn are driven primarily by demographic changes. Changes in where the prison population is enumerated for redistricting purposes, will modestly amplify, not cause, the likely shifts in the districts.”

Earlier this summer, a lawsuit was filed to overturn the law that prevents the Legislative Task-Force on Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) from counting incarcerated peoples as residents of the county in which they are imprisoned. However, demographic shifts are far more significant for Upstate communities than the loss of the prison population.

Top 3 losing districts in the prisoner counts:

Senate District


Prison Population

45 (Betty Little)



59 (Patrick Gallivan)



42 (John Bonacic)



Compared to some of districts with the highest loss of population like Senate District 60 (Grisanti-R), which lost more than 28,000 residents from 2000 to 2010, or Senate District 58 (Kennedy-D) which lost more than 12,000 residents over the same period, these numbers are not meaningful when it comes to real voters.

Background: Common Cause is a leader in redistricting reform around the nation. Common Cause California wrote and helped to pass the Voters First Initiative in California in 2008 which set up the first Citizens’ Redistricting Commission in the U.S. which is currently in the process of drawing new political boundaries transparently and with public input. Common Cause Minnesota helped pass a referendum in Minneapolis that removes political parties from the redistricting process by having a judge appoint members of the redistricting commission. Common Cause strongly supported and helped pass the Fair Districts Florida initiatives in 2010 that set new rules for redrawing legislative and congressional lines which prohibit drawing districts to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.