I was the chief author of SF 355, bipartisan legislation to allow Minnesotans who are on parole or probation the right to vote. Minnesota would join 18 other states that grant voting rights to felons on probation or parole.
Despite broad bipartisan support and an incredibly strong coalition backing it, voting rights restoration legislation failed to pass this year. I was able to pass the bill in the DFL-controlled Senate, which marks the first time the bill passed a legislative body. Unfortunately, the bill was never given a hearing in the GOP-controlled House.
The purpose of the bill is to restore voting rights to individuals with felony convictions who live in the community but are unable to vote because they are still on probation, parole or conditional release. This current policy disenfranchises more than 47,000 citizens who are living in our communities and paying taxes; they are unable to vote due to a felony conviction on their record.
My legislation would allow citizens to vote after they are released from jail, rather than the date they complete parole or supervised release, which can be many years. Current law unnecessarily and excessively discourages positive participation, perpetuates racial disparities, and adds cost and complications to voting.
I am proud of the progress that voting rights restoration made this year. The issue is finally getting the attention it deserves. There are a number of legislators from both sides of the aisle on board with passing this legislation, and I am hopeful thousands of Minnesotans will someday have their voting rights restored.