Brenda Wright

Brenda Wright is the Vice President of Legal Strategies at Demos.

Recent Articles

Against a TSA Democracy

For the first time ever, people around the country who love American democracy have decided to come together to observe a National Voter Registration Day on September 25, 2012—a day to pull out all the stops in making sure that every eligible voter is registered and able to vote in this critical election year. Hundreds of non-partisan organizations have agreed to reach out to help hundreds of thousands of people get registered to vote so that they can fulfill their civic duty as citizens and make their voices heard in November. This is an inspiring project that all of us should support. But it also provides an important occasion for asking deeper questions about our voting system: Why exactly are there so many Americans who are not registered to vote, and how can we improve our electoral system to get rid of red tape around the registration process and ensure that every eligible person is able to exercise the freedom to vote? American democracy should be a model for the world. A...

The Census and the Cell Block

This year, the census will count over a million inmates in the wrong place -- and their home communities will suffer for it.

(Anamosa State Penitentiary)
"Once, only once, and in the right place" goes the hopeful mantra of the hard-working and underappreciated Census Bureau. But the current rules for counting incarcerated persons are at odds with the last part of this goal. Next week, the census will count 1.6 million people in the wrong spot, distorting democratic representation in many states and localities. The bureau tallies incarcerated persons as residents of the prison town rather than as residents of their home communities, where they will typically return within 34 months. This policy is as old as the census, but extraordinary growth in the prison population over the last few decades -- coupled with modern uses of the data to apportion political power at all levels of government -- now spells big problems for representative democracy. In 1970, the incarcerated population in state and federal prisons was just under 200,000. Today, it has ballooned to 1.6 million -- almost the populations of North Dakota, Wyoming, and Vermont...