Last year, New York enacted legislation (known as “Part XX”) ending the practice known as “prison-based gerrymandering,” and realigning the state’s redistricting practices with basic principles of equality.
“Prison-based gerrymandering” is a practice whereby many states and local governments count incarcerated persons as residents of the areas where they are housed when election district lines are drawn. In New York, this practice made a mockery of the principle of the “one person, one vote” principle and diluted the voting strength of communities of color. African-Americans and Latinos in New York are 30% of the general population, but are 77% of the state prison population. 98% of all prisons are located in disproportionately white State Senate districts. Thus, counting incarcerated individuals where they are confined sapped the political power or African-American and Latino communities and provided. Part XX was enacted to correct this manifest injustice.
In April 2011, a partisan group of New York State Senators filed suit to strike down Part XX and to bring prison-based gerrymandering back to New York. On May 17, 2011, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for Law and Social Justice, Dēmos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the Prison Policy Initiative, filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of New Yorkers whose voting rights are directly impacted by the Plaintiffs’ challenge. The motion to intervene was granted on August 4, 2011.
In coalition with other civil rights organizations, LDF successfully defended this law. After oral argument conducted by LDF and others on October 4, 2011, the court granted defendant-intervenors’ motion for summary judgment on December 1, 2011, sustaining the constitutionality of New York’s decision to end prison-based gerrymandering.
On March 13, 2012, Plaintiffs withdrew their notice of appeal, leaving LDF and the other members of its coalition victorious in defending this important legal reform..