Felons in Minnesota are now eligible to vote immediately upon release from incarceration after Democrat Gov. Tim Walz signed the “Restore the Vote” bill into law on March 3.
“I am grateful to the community members, organizers, and legislators who are committed to strengthening the freedom to vote and ensuring every Minnesotan has a voice in our democracy.”
The LegislationThe bill goes into effect on July 1 and is estimated to apply over 55,000 convicted felons in the state, according to the press release.
“Voting is one of the most basic building blocks of our democracy. By restoring voting rights for formerly incarcerated Minnesotans, we continue down a path of restorative justice for Minnesotans who have been historically and systemically disenfranchised,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said in the release.
“I cannot overstate the work of the countless organizers, community leaders, and advocates who never gave up the fight. Our democracy is stronger thanks to your work.”
Under the new law, Department of Corrections or judiciary system officials will provide newly released persons a written notice of their rights to vote following their time served and an application to vote.
Felon Voting Rights Around the NationCurrently, 21 other states restore the voting rights of felons once they leave prison, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, including Republican-led North Dakota, Indiana, and Utah.
In Maine, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, convicted felons are allowed to vote while they are still incarcerated, irrespective of their crimes—a situation some California lawmakers are currently looking to legalize in their state.
In 16 states, felons lose their voting rights while incarcerated and for a period of time after, according to the NCSL. Eleven other states completely strip felons of voting rights for some crimes, or require a pardon by the state’s governor or other action for rights to be restored.
The legislation specifies that an applicant for a “noncompliant” license or identification card “is not required to demonstrate United States citizenship or lawful presence in the United States.”
While Democrats argue that the measure will “make roads safer,” Republicans raised concerns that illegal immigrants and potential terrorists could exploit the law to get access to voting and fly illegally, and sought to amend the text to prevent that.