Photo: YinYang via Getty Images
  /  02.23.2023

Minnesota has become the latest state in the nation to move toward restoring voting rights to convicted felons immediately upon release from prison. On Tuesday (Feb. 21), the Minnesota Senate approved a bill that would grant suffrage to all incarcerated folks as soon as their sentence behind bars is complete rather than forcing them to wait until their parole is up to cast their ballots. 

It comes less than a week after the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the state’s rules were unconstitutional. The court upheld the current restrictions and left it up to the legislature to change them. 

Democrats supporting the measure claimed it will help ex-inmates, who are disproportionately people of color, transition back into society. 

“We know that in the state of Minnesota right now we have more than 55,000 of our friends, our neighbors, and family members who are not allowed to vote. They should have the right to vote,” Democratic Senate President Bobby Joe Champion told his colleagues, per CNN“The individuals impacted by this bill — Restore the Vote — are paying taxes, raising families, and contributing to our communities. They should be allowed to vote. The research is also clear in showing that when formerly incarcerated people are connected to their communities and participating in pro-social activities such as voting, recidivism goes down.”

In its ruling sending the issue to the state Capitol, the high court acknowledged that the laws in place have disenfranchised many Minnesotans. One percent of white people, 6 percent of Black people, and 9 percent of Native American people in the state could not go to the polls in 2018 because they had been convicted of a felony but had not finished their required parole. If they received their right to vote when they leave prison, those percentages would drop to 0.1 percent, 1.5 percent, and 2 percent, respectively.  

The bill now heads to Democratic Gov. Tim Walz for his signature. 



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