How many phantom voters are there in Washington State and who are they helping? Note I did not say voting for, but helping. Seems that in New York State, non-voting prisoners have helped to give Republicans an advantage in increasing their clout. The reason has to do with the fact that the US Census, used for determine population for drawing boundaries of national and state races, lists prisoners under where they are incarcerated, not where they lived before.

In an editorial in today’s NY Times entitled “Phantom Voters, Thanks to the Census“they note:

A startling analysis by Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Institute found that seven upstate New York Senate Districts meeting the population requirements only because inmates were included in the count. The Republican Party in New York relies on its large upstate delegation for its majority in the State Senate – and for its political power statewide. New York is not alone. The Prison Policy Initiative’s researchers found 21 counties nationally where at least 21 percent of so-called residents lived behind bars.

A national map located at http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/ website has colored areas in Washington state affected by this misuse of phantom voters. These include the prisons located in Walla Walla, Mason, and Chelan counties. In addition to distorting one person, one vote, the prison population figures in the census severely distort racial makeup in census data.http://prisonersofthecensus.org/news/fact-3-5-2004.shtml. As a result of using inaccurate census data that assigns prisoners as residents of the county they are in while they are in prison, Clallam county has 57% of its black population in prison, Mason County has 65% ,and Walla Walla has 58%.

 

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