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Latfor Release 5 17 Final

Latfor Release 5 17 Final

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Published by VOCAL-NY

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Published by: VOCAL-NY on May 17, 2011
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05/17/2011

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ForImmediateRelease:May17,2011PleaseContact:
BrennanCenterforJusticeJeaninePlant-Chirlin
(646)292-8322jeanine.plant-chirlin@nyu.edu
CenterforLaw&SocialJusticeAprilSilver
(718)756-8501pr@akilaworksongs.com
DēmosLaurenStrayer
(212)389-1413lstrayer@demos.org
LatinoJusticeJohnGarcia
(212)739-7513jgarcia@latinojustice.org
NAACP-LDFMelquiadesGagarin
(212)965-2783mgagarin@naacpldf.org
NYCLUMichaelCummings
(212)607-3300x363mcummings@nyclu.org
PrisonPolicyInitiativePeterWagner
(413)527-0845pwagner@prisonpolicy.org
CivilRightsOrganizationsFileMotiontoDefendLawEndingPrison-BasedGerrymandering
VotersandCommunityGroupsInterveninginSuittoEnsurethatAllNewYorkersAreEquallyRepresentedinStateandLocalLegislatures
Albany,NY
–Today,topcivilrightsorganizationsfiledamotioninNewYorkSupremeCourtaskingtointervenetohelpdefendNewYork’snewlawallocatingpeopleinprisontotheirhomecommunitiesforredistrictingandreapportionment.TheBrennanCenterforJustice,theCenterforLawandSocialJustice,Dēmos,LatinoJusticePRLDEF,theNAACPLegalDefenseandEducationalFund,theNewYorkCivilLibertiesUnion,andthePrisonPolicyInitiative,representingfifteenruralandurbanvotersandthreestatewidenonprofitorganizations,areseekingtodefendthenewlawagainstalegalchallengebroughtbyNewYorkStateSenatorElizabethLittleandothers.Thelawsuit,titled
Littlev.LATFOR
,namestheNewYorkStateTaskForceonDemographicResearchandReapportionment(LATFOR)andtheDepartmentofCorrectionalServices(DOCS)asdefendants.Thenewlawrequiresthatincarceratedpersonsbecountedasresidentsoftheirhomecommunities,inaccordancewiththeNewYorkStateConstitution’sprovisionthatincarcerationdoesnotchangeone’sresidence.Thelegislationappliestostateandlocallegislativeredistricting,andwouldnotaffectfederalfundingdistributions.Previously,legislativedistrictswithprisonswerecreditedwiththepopulationofthedisenfranchisedpeopletemporarilyincarceratedthere.Thispractice,oftencalledprison-basedgerrymandering,givesextrainfluencetovoterswholiveinthedistrictwiththemostprisons,anddilutesthevotesofeveryresidentofadistrictwithno(orfewer)prisons.ThenewlawcorrectsthisbiasandassuresthatallcommunitiesinNewYorkhaveequalrepresentationinourgovernment.Themostdramaticexamplesofprison-basedgerrymanderingareinupstatecountiesandcities.Forexample,halfofaRomeCityCouncilwardisincarcerated,givingtheresidentsofthatwardtwicethe
 
influenceofothercityresidents.Recognizingthedistortingeffectofprison-basedgerrymanderingatthelocallevel,thirteenNewYorkcountieswithlargeprisons–includingfourinSenatorLittle’sdistrict–havehistoricallyexercisedtheirdiscretiontoremovetheprisonpopulationspriortoredistricting.ThenewlawbringsconsistencytoredistrictinginNewYork,prohibitingthestateandalllocalgovernmentsfromgivingextrapoliticalinfluencetodistrictsthatcontainprisons.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tothedetrimentofallotherdistrictswithoutprisons.ReturningtothispracticewouldnotonlyunfairlyinflatethedistrictsofthosewithprisonsattheexpenseofthosewithoutbutalsoviolatetheNewYorkStateConstitution.Theorganizationsseekingtointerveneinclude:
 
The
NAACPNewYorkStateConference,
thestate-levelbodyinNewYorkoftheNAACP,amembershiporganizationdedicatedtoprotectingandenhancingthecivilrightsofAfricanAmericansandotherpeopleofcolor.TheConferencehasapproximately90,000membersstatewide.“Personsincarceratedincorrectionalinstitutionsdonotparticipateinthelifeofthetownorcountywheretheyareincarcerated,”saidHazelDukes,presidentoftheNAACPNewYorkStateConference.“Sen.Littleandherco-plaintiffsareseekingtoreverseoneofNewYork’smostimportantcivilrightsadvancesinthepreviousdecade,whichwouldunfairlydilutethevotingrightsofNewYorkersineverycornerofthestate.”
 
CommonCause/NY,
theNewYorkbranchofCommonCause,anationwide,nonpartisanorganizationwith20,000membersinNewYorkStatethatadvocatesforhonest,accountable,andresponsivegovernment.“Thewaylegislativedistrictlinesaredrawnimpactscitizens’abilitytoparticipateeffectivelyinourdemocracy,”saidSusanLerner,executivedirectorofCommonCause/NY.“Prison-basedgerrymanderingisafundamentallyunfairpracticewhoseendwasmetwithoverwhelmingapplause.Votersineveryregionofthestatewouldbehurtbyarepealofthenewlaw.”
 
VoicesofCommunityActivistsandLeaders–NewYork,orVOCAL-NY,
astatewidegrassrootsmembershiporganizationbuildingpoweramonglow-incomepeoplewhoarelivingwithandaffectedbyHIV/AIDS,druguseandincarceration,alongwiththeorganizationsthatservethem,tocreatehealthyandjustcommunities.“Manyofourmembersliveincommunitiesthatareheavilyimpactedbythecriminaljusticesystemandhaveadisproportionatenumberofresidentssenttostateprison,”saidRamonVelasquez,aVOCAL-NYleader.“EverydistrictthathasfewerprisonsthanSenatorLittle’sdistrictlosesrepresentationfromprison-basedgerrymandering,butthedistrictsthatseemanyoftheirmemberscountedinprisonloseevenmore.”

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