The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling Monday that allows Maryland to count prison inmates at their last known addresses – rather than their prison addresses – for redistricting purposes, and upholds the map approved by the General Assembly last year. Activists had sued the state, saying that the newly drawn congressional districting map violated the U.S. Constitution. The map was developed by a committee appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley and based on census data and statewide input. It was also drawn to reflect a 2010 Maryland law that counts prisoners at their last known addresses, which differs from the U.S. Census Bureau’s policy of counting inmates at their prison addresses, used by most states.
Critics of the federal policy say it has artificially inflated the populations and voting power of the often-rural districts that contain prisons, while reducing the influence of urban areas where many inmates formerly lived. “These prisoners do not use the roads or the resources in that [prison’s] district,” said Delegate Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk, Prince George’s Democrat. “They end up being released and going back to the communities where they lived prior to being incarcerated.” The Supreme Court issued its decision based on briefs in the District Court case and did not hear oral arguments. “We’re disappointed in the terms of the decision,” said Radamase Cabrera, spokesman for the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, a black voting rights group that helped back the lawsuit. The lawsuit also claimed the maps were drawn to illegally dilute minority influence.