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New York prisoners will be brought back home, not physically but numerically, if legislation introduced in Albany last month gets passed. The bills, introduced in both the Assembly and Senate last month, would require the state Board of Elections to count prisoners as residents of their districts of origin rather than the districts where their prisons are located. This effort has long been pushed by advocates in New York City, which sends tens of thousands of prisoners to institutions upstate and loses funds and political representation as a result. Introduced simultaneously by Senator Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/ Bronx) and Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat (D-Washington Heights), the bills would mandate that the Board of Elections count prisoners by their home addresses when drawing or redrawing electoral districts. Proponents of the bills acknowledge the difficult road ahead. “The Assembly bill will have an easier time but the Senate bill looks like it will be very difficult to pass,” said Erik Stowers, the political director of Downtown for Democracy, an advocacy organization that is part of a broader coalition known as New Yorkers for Equal Representation. “The people who control the Senate, the Republicans, get extra districts by counting prisoners upstate.” Stowers said the coalition plans to file a lawsuit against the state for violating prisoners’ constitutional rights. The earliest time the bills would have an impact, should they pass, would be in 2012, the next time electoral districts are redrawn. (X. Rong)

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