Senate GOP To Drop Prison-Counting Lawsuit

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A group of state Senate Republicans is set to drop a lawsuit over where prisoners should be counted for redistricting purposes, according to two sources close to the negotiations.

David Lewis, an attorney representing the senators, contacted the state Attorney General’s office yesterday to say his clients intend to drop the case, the sources said. No official paperwork withdrawing the lawsuit has been filed to this point, according to the Appellate Division.

The group of Republican lawmakers, led by Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, Warren County, had sued the state over a 2010 law requiring prisoners to be counted at their last known address rather than where they’re incarcerated when it comes to drawing new state-level district lines.

A state Supreme Court judge in Albany ruled in December that the law, which was passed when Democrats controlled the Senate, did not violate the state constitution. Senate Republicans tried to appeal the decision directly to the state Court of Appeals, but the attempt was rejected and sent back to the Appellate Division.

In the meantime, the legislative task force in charge of redrawing state Senate and Assembly districts reached an agreement on how to count prisoners while complying with the new law.

Where to count prisoners could have a significant impact, politically speaking. The Senate GOP generally represents upstate districts where the prisons are located; while Senate Democrats generally represent areas downstate, where a majority of the state prisoners last resided.

Senate Republicans currently have a 32-29 advantage in the Legislature’s upper chamber, with one vacant seat.

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