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‘Prison gerrymandering reform bill’ aims to ensure fairer representation, heads for House Floor

State corrections officials routinely cite that 95% of Minnesota prisoners will eventually be released.

Odds are they return from where they came.

Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL-Mpls) aims to ensure people spending time behind bars are more appropriately counted when it comes to determining future governmental representation.

Per HF4043 — what Agbaje terms the prison gerrymandering reform bill” — beginning with the 2030 census state and federal prisoners would count as residing where they come from rather than the correctional facility.

“This is important because most incarcerated people do not reside in the community where the prison is located, and once released, will return to the place from where they were a resident,” she said.

Prisoners without a last-known address, those from outside Minnesota, or those who do not want to provide their information, would only be included in the statewide count.

Approved Tuesday by a third committee, the House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee, the bill, as amended, next goes to the House Floor.

Prison gerrymandering is “an unfortunate flaw” in the census data collection system that over time has led to imbalances in the population counts, Agbaje said. “It meant the home communities where prisoners had come from would lose their portion of political power in the state based on population.”

She said the U.S. Census Bureau has yet to act on the idea; however, other states with varying political majorities have reallocated data to ensure a more accurate population count.

“We’d be hopping on a pretty fast-moving and growing bandwagon,” Secretary of State Steve Simon told the elections committee two weeks ago. “It does fix a distortion.”

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