The New York Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the lawsuit to overturn a law passed by the 2010 Democratic legislative majority that would count prison inmates in the communities they are from, instead of in the towns and counties where they’re incarcerated.
The lawsuit was brought by six Senate Republicans–many of whom would be affected by the law–who are claiming, among other things, that the prisoners must be counted where the US Census counts them (in predominately upstate prisons).
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, as well as lawyers for NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Brennan Center for Justice, argued in favor of the law, saying that prisoners are counted back in their pre-incarceration communities for other official tallies and political districts should be no different. Dale Ho, the lawyer representing the NAACP LDF, said he felt confident the judge understood their perspective.
“The judge had some questions about whether or not it was rational to count prisoners as continuing residents in their home communities,” Ho said. “The point that we tried to make clear to him–and I think he understood this–is that prisoners are treated as continuing residents of their home communities for virtually ever legal puprose.”
That would include, Ho said, things like court jurisdiction in their cases or family law, as well as voting rights. “Some incarcerated individuals retain their voting rights,” Ho noted. “They vote not at the address where the prison facility is located. They vote by absentee ballot in their home communities.”