>Jailhouse Spin


Question: When is a “resident” not a “resident”?

Answer, as reported on the Editorial Page of the New York Times: When the “resident” is an “imported constituent” doing time in a prison located far from home.

The Times, in a flush of unwonted realism about voting rights and all that, opposes the practice by the U.S. Census of counting jailed criminals as “residents” of the mostly rural congressional districts where their assigned habitats are located.

The Times argues that these “residents” are really “imported constituents” who should be counted in the population of wherever they were living and conducting their anti-social activities prior to being assigned by some judge “temporary” residency (maybe only 5 to 10 years). Otherwise, The Times correctly points out that counting “imported constituents” skews the population count used to determine how Congress passes out goodies and how congressional district lines are drawn.

Moreover, if the “temporary constituent” gets out in less than 10 years for good behavior, the U.S. Census will still be counting the “constituent” at the temporary residency rather than at the “constituent’s” old home plus possibly a new one.

The Times editorial fails to address whether “imported constituents” are voting while still in prison by absentee ballot or at their last place of residency or both.

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