Testimony of Brenda Wright to the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel

Testimony of Brenda Wright to the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel

October 20, 2011
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Thank you, Members of the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel, for providing the opportunity to submit written testimony. Dēmos is a national, non-profit, non-partisan research and policy organization. The Dēmos Democracy Program works to ensure high levels of voting and civic engagement, and supports reforms to achieve a more inclusive and representative democracy.

I am an attorney with over twenty years of experience in redistricting, voting rights, and election reform. I am also a member of the Board of Advisors for the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-partisan, non-profit center which, for the last decade, has been the leading organization studying how the U.S. Census counts people in prison; and works to quantify the policy and legal implications flowing from those technical decisions. And although I am very interested in the broad range of issues affecting fairness in representation for Minnesota communities, I focus my testimony here on the specific issue of incarcerated populations this state, and the manner in which they are counted for purposes of redistricting.

It is well settled that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires state legislative districts to satisfy requirements of population equality under the “one-person, one-vote” doctrine. See, e.g., Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964). Nonetheless, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that states are not required to rely upon federal Census data in redistricting. See Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 330-332 (1973) (rejecting City of Virginia’s argument that it was compelled to use Census data regarding “residences” of military personnel in its state legislative redistricting).