N.J. inmates may count as part of legislative redistricting

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a measure calling for inmates to be counted when calculating population figures used to draw legislative district lines.

The bill calls for prisoners in state and federal facilities in New Jersey to be included in future redrawing of legislative and congressional district boundaries. They would be counted in the their home districts.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll questioned whether making the change that would affect about 20,000 inmates is justified.

“How much is it going to cost and is there a reason why we should bother?” said Carroll, R-Morris.

It’s worth the cost of a one-time fix because some towns and cities send a disproportionate share of their populations to prison, answered Alexander Shalom with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

“Until we fix it, every person living in an urban community has their vote diminished, and every person living in a prison community has their voting power increased,” Shalom said. “There’s something fundamentally unfair and fundamentally un-American about that.”

Even if they are included for redistricting purposes, the prisoners would still be barred from voting.

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