Bipartisan legislation was heard this week to allow Minnesotans who are on parole or probation to vote. Current Minnesota 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. This 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. This policy unnecessarily and excessively discourages positive participation, perpetuates racial disparities, and adds cost and complications to voting.
Studies show that re-enfranchising ex-offenders can produce tangible benefits for both individuals and our communities. Allowing people to vote while on community supervision may help to reduce recidivism – research links pro-social activities like voting to desistance in crime. In addition, the right to vote forms the core of American democracy. Our history is marked by successful struggles to expand the franchise, to include those previously barred from the electorate because of race, class, or gender. This legislation to restore voting rights builds a stronger democracy, advances civil rights, ends second-class citizenship, aids law enforcement, empowers family and communities, and assures fair and accurate voter rolls. (S.F. 355)