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Prison inmates a possible factor in redrawing Youngstown ward map

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Youngstown lawmakers are still haggling over how to best redraw the city's seven wards.

Council met for a third time on Tuesday to discuss options presented by Youngstown State University.

The goal of the redistricting is to divide the wards equally based on population.

One topic of concern discussed at the meeting centers around Youngstown's prison population and whether the roughly 2,500 inmates should be counted when dividing the wards.

Some argue even though the inmates vote doesn't count, the person still needs to have a voice with council.

"We have gotten letters from prisoners and we also try to work with prisoners," said Councilwoman Annie Gillam. "Through working with them, to try and bring them back into our community. So we do represent prisoners."

Others argue by counting the inmates, it skews the goal of giving each council member equal representation.

"One way to look at it is prison based gerrymandering," said Councilman Mike Ray. "Here's a prison, there use it to your advantage so your representing less people."

If the inmates are not counted, one fear is the ward where the prison is located would need to grow geographically in size to receive it's share of residents. If so, would the ward receive more funding for things like roads and sewer maintenance?

"That prison, those roads they still need to be paved for those people who are visiting out there," said Council President Jamael Tito Brown. "So those are questions we need to answer."

The  city has spent $8,000 to have Youngstown State University make recommendations for the redistricting. Council as a Whole voted Tuesday to open the project to outside companies for a second opinion.

 

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