EMPIRE STATE MATH:
On July 9, after five weeks of political paralysis caused by the momentary defection of Democrats
to the GOP side, the New York State Senate finally got its act together. But the crisis raises serious questions about the awkward balance of power in Albany and the frail nature of the Democratic majority (32-30) in the Senate.
According to the
Prison Policy Initiative
(PPI), which studies how prison populations affect state and local politics nationwide, New York is a grand perpetrator of prison-based gerrymandering. Despite the fact that the state Constitution explicitly declares that a person’s residence doesn’t change while in prison, thirteen upstate counties continue to ignore that, claiming inmates as constituents even though they can’t vote in those upstate counties. Without these so-called constituents, seven districts wouldn’t be drawn the way they are now. PPI argues that the disparity in population creates an extra Senate seat for upstate New Yorkers while disenfranchising downstaters.
Unfortunately, while New York may be one of the most exceptional examples of prison-based gerrymandering, it is not alone. PPI has found similar abuses in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, Nevada, Wisconsin and Texas, among others.
What continues to feed this cycle of misrepresentation in New York are the repressive Rockefeller drug laws. For decades upstate conservatives, like Senator
, have resisted any major reform of these laws. Democrats managed to make a dent a few months ago by passing some minor revisions that would redirect resources to rehabilitation and repeal many of the mandatory minimum sentencing practices. But the road ahead will be difficult, since shipping nonviolent criminals upstate protects so many seats. DARIUS DIXON
‘s July 8 national conference, 20-year-old emerging journalist
found himself in possession of a major scoop: former President
had admitted, for the first time, to supporting same-sex marriage. Clinton made the revelation to Tracey while mingling with attendees after delivering the conference’s keynote speech.
Immediately, Tracey began thinking about the best way for a student journalist to break the story. The stars aligned the next day at
The Nation/Campus Progress Youth Journalism Conference
, where Tracey approached Nation senior editor Richard Kim, who was facilitating a workshop on turning ideas into articles. Their meeting led Tracey to write an article for TheNation.com, which in turn ignited a minor media storm. ABC reporter
subsequently grilled White House press secretary
over whether or not Clinton’s change of tune had any impact on Obama’s position (the current president supports civil unions, but not marriage, for same-sex couples). Later,
, “Bill Clinton revealed that he now supports same-sex marriage–even though he opposed it during his presidency. To be fair, during his presidency he also opposed his own marriage.”