Minn. Census prison count comes with downside

by Peter Wagner, April 16, 2010  

Sarah Walker shared this great-but-unpublished letter to the editor with us:

Minn. Census prison count comes with downside

Dear Editor,

The Census Bureau is counting the people incarcerated at the FMC
prison as residents of the town ["FMC inmates are Rochester residents, too"] but the article only touched only a serious downside: this population is used to draw city ward districts.

Minnesota doesn’t let prisoners vote, and the state constitution says
that they aren’t residents of Rochester: “no person loses residence …
while confined in any public prison.” (Art VII, Section 2.) Using prison
counts to make the ward with the prison look more populous distorts
the idea of One Person One Vote. It is not fair to grant every 94
residents who live near the prison the same influence as 100 residents of other
wards.

The solution? Do what Pine County does and ignore the prison population when drawing local districts. Or support S.F. 3097/H.F. 3536 which would prohibit the state, county and local districts from using prison populations as padding at districting time.

Let’s make the promise of equal representation real.

Sarah Walker
Minnesota Second Chance Coalition
St. Paul
April 3, 2010

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