Dan Donovan, the Staten Island District Attorney and Republican candidate for attorney general, says that he opposes State Senator Eric Schneiderman’s bill to count inmates as residents of the legislative districts that they come from, rather than the districts where they are incarcerated.
Schneiderman and the other four Democrats rallied around the bill at a debate last week at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, with Schneiderman insisting it was not “an anti-upstate thing,” even while he contended it would shift representation, and thus “resources,” to downstate districts. Schneiderman even referred to the upstate districts that include 44,000 inmates, mostly blacks and Latinos from the city, as “prison districts.”
Donovan’s spokeswoman told the Voice that he “believes our current system should not be changed.”
“When the census is taken,” says Donovan aide Virginia Lam, “people are counted where they currently reside, and Dan believes it should remain that way.”
Actually, it will, since Schneiderman’s bill can’t change how the census counts residents. His bill requires that the New State Department of Corrections supply the state’s legislative redistricting commission with the addresses inmates were living at when incarcerated.
New districts in the reapportionment slated to begin next year would then be based on a count of those people in their former districts, not their so called “prison districts,” thus increasing downstate population and decreasing upstate population. Not only would that affect the statewide allocation of districts, it would aid Democrats, who represent the districts that will gain population, and thus expand the number of those districts, while having the opposite effect on districts that traditionally elect Republicans.
Lam also responded to Voice questions about another piece of legislation that was a feature of the Evers debate — the bill Governor Paterson signed on Friday to stop the NYPD from storing information about those stopped, frisked and released without any finding of wrongdoing. “Dan supported the bill and believed that the Governor was right in signing it into law,” said Lam. “Dan does not believe that the government should keep the personal information of individuals who were stopped and released.”
Donovan’s position is somewhat surprising since Mayor Bloomberg, who strongly supported the retention of the database, is a prime backer of Donovan’s. A few months ago, Donovan’s office arrested three people involved in a hate-crime assault in Staten Island and attributed the office’s success in breaking the case to information obtained about the suspects from a prior stop and frisk that did not result in any arrest.
Lam added, however, that “a key distinction” between [Donovan’s] position and others in the race is that he doesn’t “agree with the description of stops and frisks as being excessive or unjustified.” He doesn’t see “the sheer number” of stops as an indication “of any wrongdoing” and believes they’re “an important law enforcement tool.”
Additional research by: Adam Schwartzman, Jenny Tai, Michael Cohen, and Nicole Maffeo