From the Herald-Mail in Maryland:
Bill would alter inmate count for Census
By ERIN JULIUS
ANNAPOLIS — Washington County might lose about 6,000 people from its legislative and congressional districts because of a bill that has been passed by both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly.
The bill excludes state inmates who were not state residents before their incarceration, and requires that prisoners be counted as residents of their last known address before prison.
About 6,000 prisoners are housed in the three state prisons south of Hagerstown, a prison spokesman said Friday.
Local jail populations are not included in the bill.
All but one of Washington County’s eight local lawmakers voted against the measure.
The change in how to count the population will be relevant in creating legislative districts for the U.S. Congress, Maryland General Assembly, and county and municipal governing bodies, according to the bill.
Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, called the bill “a blatant power grab by, predominantly, the Baltimore City delegation.” Changing how prisoners are counted will benefit the Baltimore City and Prince George’s County delegations because most of the prisoners in the state prison system are from the more urban areas of the state.
Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, also expressed concerns. Two areas Edwards represents — Washington and Allegany counties — would be affected.
About 3,000 state prisoners are held in two facilities near Cumberland, a prison spokesman said.
Another 1,503 prisoners are held by the Bureau of Prisons at a federal facility in Cumberland, according to a fiscal note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services that was attached to the bill.
After the 2000 census, the ideal population for a General Assembly district — with a plus or minus 5 percent margin of error — is 112,691. The ideal congressional district size is 662,061.
The state legislative districts are expected to increase to about 120,000 following the 2010 census, and the congressional districts are expected to grow to about 722,425, according to the fiscal note.
Edwards believes the change in population counts — taking 4,000 people out of Allegany County’s population — could push the outlines of his district, District 1, further east into Washington County because Garrett and Allegany counties are not growing, Edwards said.
However, it’s tough to judge what will happen without the numbers, and with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent, things might stay as they are, he said.
It’s unfair, however, because having prison facilities in its midst puts pressure on a community’s public services, Edwards said. (more…)