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Redistricting 2011: Where to count Marylandís prisoners

Chaaron Pearson on Monday, March 21, 2011 at 12:00:00 am

Craig Mathies Sr., the first black county commissioner of Somerset County, Maryland, knocked on only 15 doors during his campaign.  He didnít have to mount a large campaign because a many of his constituents are inmates at the Eastern Correctional Institution Complex, Marylandís largest state prison.  Those inmates canít vote, which means Mr. Mathiesí district has only 1,400 voters while other districts have 3,000.

Mr. Mathiesí district numbers will soon change.  Last year Maryland passed a law that requires that, for the purposes of redistricting, prisoners must be counted at their last permanent address Ė not the place where they are incarcerated.  However, figuring out a permanent address for each prisoner isnít always easy.  What if the prisoner was previously homeless?  What if they have no permanent address on record?  Delaware and New York, who have similar redistricting laws, will also have to come up with answers to these questions.

Karl Aro, executive director of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, thinks the proposed methods of determining permanent addresses proposed by Maryland and New York are likely to be challenged constitutionally. 

To read more: Stateline Ė Where to count prisoners poses redistricting dilemma    

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