here for PDF format
Summary of Meeting with Guy-Uriel Charles
8301 Creekside Circle,
Bloomington, MN 55437
Thursday, July 7, 2007
Charles, interim co-dean of the University of Minnesota Law School and
co-director of the Law School's Institute for Law and Politics
Johnson, chair; Chuck Clay, Paul Gilje (by phone), John Mooty, Jim Olson
(by phone), David Schultz (by phone)
Context of the meeting
--As part of the Civic
Caucus' review of election-related issues, today the Caucus meets with a
recognized authority on redistricting.
B. Introduction and welcome
introduced Guy-Uriel Charles, interim co-dean of the University of
Minnesota Law School and co-director of the Law School's Institute for Law
and Politics. Charles was a member of the National Research Commission on
Elections and Voting and the Century Foundation Working Group on Election
Reform. Charles teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law,
civil procedure, election law, law and politics, and race. He joined the
Law School in the fall of 2000. He has a law degree from the University
Comments and discussion
Charles' comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the following
points were made:
1. Objectives for Institute for Law and
Politics --The newly-established Institute for Law and
Politics, of which Charles serves as co-director along with Aaron Street,
is designed to bring people together to think about issues in elections
and government structure that aren't being given adequate attention.
Currently, redistricting is receiving top priority. Other areas will be
identified, including the presidential primary process. Charles would
like to bring Minnesota innovations to the national stage as well, for
example, same day registration.
Institute for Law and Politics was established this year with $50,000 in
seed money from the Law School. He acknowledged some similarities with
the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University's
Humphrey Institute. Perhaps the closest parallel is the Brennan Center
for Justice at the New York University School of Law, Charles said.
expects that the Institute will be looking at campaign finance, a strong
interest of his and of David Schultz', a senior fellow at the Institute,
who also is a professor, Graduate School of Management, Hamline
University. Another topic of inquiry might relate to the roles of
federal U.S. attorneys.
expects that the Institute will conduct many conferences on issues. The
Institute will speak out with recommendations from time to time.
Charles, Schultz and Verne Johnson visited briefly about the potential use
of interns for the Civic Caucus. Charles said the Institute will be very
interested in working with other organizations.
2. Interest of the Institute in redistricting
--The issue for Charles is one of integrity--how a State
Legislature can legitimately draw its own districting boundaries. The
current system is really a way for legislators to select their voters,
when the democratic process should be the other way around. Charles
believes that limitations on the freedom of state legislatures to draw
boundaries--in addition to existing requirements for racial
balance--should be imposed constitutionally or otherwise.
Redistricting is an issue that preoccupies the Legislature, he said. When
redistricting bills are under consideration, everything else stops because
redistricting is the lifeblood of the Legislature's business. Some people
argue that politics in redistricting is inevitable, but Charles believes
that the fundamental rules of the game shouldn't allow legislators to
decide what their own districts will look like.
states gerrymandering is so bad that some citizens wonder why they should
bother to vote because the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
Fore-ordained elections are inconsistent with the democratic process.
Voters should be able to choose, not simply ratify a decision that already
has been made.
noted that in recent decades the courts in Minnesota have ended up making
the final decision because the Governor and Legislature have been
deadlocked. He said he's asking whether there's a better way.
3. Other approaches to redistricting
--Charles cited the Iowa approach which places some distance between
the Legislature and redistricting, without totally removing the
Legislature's potential involvement. Some states have redistricting
commissions that function independently of the Legislature. Another
approach would be to place redistricting guidelines in the state
said he agrees that competitiveness should be a guideline. Even better,
he said, is to provide that deliberately making a district uncompetitive
would be prohibited. That's a better way to express the competitiveness
guideline, he said, because it is impossible to make all districts equally
competitive. Jim Olson noted that the Iowa legislation prohibits a
deliberate effort to make districts competitive.
4. Changes in presidential primaries
--Charles said it isn't good for various states to compete with one
another to hold the earliest presidential primary. He favors having
states get together via interstate compacts and schedule regional
primaries. Regional primaries, he said, would make it possible to have a
more deliberate process and give candidates a better opportunity to get
all views on the table.
5. Selection of judges --Charles
said he agrees with the Quie commission to replace partisan election of
judges with a merit appointment system. He thinks it is likely that the
Institute will take a position on the issue. David Schultz noted that
last Friday the Minnesota Bar Association voted 33-31 to support a merit
appointment process, without retention elections. The majority report of
the Quie commission recommended periodic retention elections after
6. Potential of instant run-off voting (IRV)
--Charles said he likes IRV because it maximizes the use of voters in
utilizing their feelings about the candidates.
--On behalf of the
Civic Caucus, Verne Johnson thanked Charles for meeting with us today.
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.