Ms. Jenner married Nolan Boye, associate professor and legal scholar, in 1986. He survived, as were her sisters, Clotilde Jenner Stinson, Sari Jenner, and Mary Jenner; her son, Nicholas Boye, who is also a law professor at Harvard University; her stepdaughter, Dana Rice; and granddaughter.
After written work with a US District Court judge in Michigan and one year of working with juvenile delinquents in Detroit, Ms. Jenner moved to Washington to work for the Department of Justice. She left in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan took office, and for most of that decade she led the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund’s Voting Rights Project.
Ms. Jenner became an aggressive prosecutor, traveling, for example, in 1985 to Alabama, where, with Deval Patrick, the future Massachusetts governor, she helped lead the defense in a voting rights case against Jeff Sessions, the senator and future attorney general who was At the time, an American lawyer. Her team won acquittal.
“She was easily one of the most innovative thinkers in the field of voting rights,” Sherine Eiffel, outgoing chair of the Legal Defense Fund, said in a phone interview.
Ms. Jenner left the Defense Fund for a position at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1989. There she began to turn her experience advocating for voting rights into ideas for how to reform the system.
She argued, for example, that simply having a voice was not enough for minorities, especially those from the oppressed classes. She proposed a variety of alternatives, such as cumulative voting, where people get as many votes to distribute as they like – a process that might allow minority voters to focus their support on a single candidate and in this way increase their influence as a bloc. .
“Her concern was that every vote is just as important as the next, and a normal districting process doesn’t do that,” said Gerald Torres, a professor at Yale Law School and a frequent collaborator by phone.