Minnesota House advances bill to restore felon voting rights

Voting would be restored for those released from prison but are still on parole or probation
((KBJR/CBS 3))
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 8:09 PM CST
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SAINT PAUL, MN. (Northern News Now) - On Thursday, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill that would restore the right to vote for those convicted of a felony once they are released from incarceration.

The “Restore the Vote” bill would allow an estimated 50,000 Minnesotans convicted of a felony, who are still on parole or probation, to cast ballots in elections.

21 other states already have such laws in place.

The bill passed 71-59 by the House.

Rep. Alicia Kozlowski (DFL - Duluth) and Rep. Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth) voted for the bill.

“Accountability and consequences are important pieces of our system of justice. So, too, is a path toward redemption, and the ability for those who have committed crimes to reintegrate into their communities,” Rep. Olson said. “Restoring the vote for those who have served their time of incarceration gives them an opportunity to participate in our democracy and become engaged in our society.”

Minnesota is a low-incarceration, high-probation state. This means that former inmates can remain under parole or probation for years or up to decades.

A person who violates release requirements and returns to imprisonment would again lose their right to vote until being released from custody.

While there was some Republican support for the bill, others expressed concerns.

Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said nothing in the bill would stop someone who committed felonious voter fraud from voting in the next election. “We should choose to protect the sanctity of our vote,” said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch).

Secretary of State Steve Simon has publicly supported restoring ex-felon voting rights.

“These are people who have served their time already and are working to establish or re-establish themselves in their communities,” Simon said. “Minnesotans, I think, believe in second chances.”

Governor Tim Walz has also said that if the legislation reached his desk, he would sign it.

The bill is moving through the committee process in the Minnesota Senate.