The U.S. Census Bureau counts incarcerated people where they are confined not where they are from. Using these counts to draw legislative districts violates Minnesota state law and makes democracy suffer. There are 10 Minnesota House districts where state and federal prison populations were counted as residents, significantly enhancing the weight of a vote cast in those districts.
Ideally, the Census Bureau would count incarcerated people at home or the state would have enough time to develop a solution that would count incarcerated people at their home addresses. But as insufficient time remains for those strategies, a bill could require the state, the counties and other local governments to use their own data on the home addresses of incarcerated people to draw fairer districts.
Legislation in previous sessions
- HF 1189, authored by Representatives R. Dehn, Atkins, Mariani, Schoen, Moran, and Clark, February 25, 2015; and SF 1151, authored by Senators Hayden, B. Petersen, Rest, and Hoffman, February 26, 2015.
- Provisions ending prison gerrymandering are also included as Article 6 of the Senate's elections omnibus reform bill, SF 455, which passed the Senate on May 11, 2015.
- In 2010, Senator Higgins and Representative Champion introduced bills that would have prohibited padding legislative districts with prison populations. The bills would have prohibited districts with prisons from exerting undue influence over all other districts.
Testimony in support of legislation to end prison gerrymandering
Testimony during redistricting
- Brenda Wright, Director of the Democracy Program, Dēmos, written testimony submitted to the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel, October 20, 2011.
- Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative, written testimony submitted to the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel, October 19, 2011.
- Sarah Walker, Co-founder of the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, before the Minnesota Judicial Special Redistricting Panel, October 6, 2011
- Sarah Walker, Co-founder of the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, before the Minnesota Citizens Redistricting Commission, September 19, 2011
Organizations in Minnesota
It’s impossible to include everyone who is working toward fair districting in Minnesota, but if you are looking to get involved, these are some of the people and organizations you might want to contact:
- Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Minnesota (2010) is our district-by-district analysis of how crediting Minnesota’s incarcerated residents to the wrong districts distorts democracy and violates the federal and state constitutions. Analysis is based on redistricting after the 2000 Census.